Men’s water polo stopped short in NorCal Classic finals

Sept. 21, 2014, 10:43 p.m.

With three decisive victories to open the NorCal Classic, the Cardinal cruised into the finals of the tournament, facing defending tournament champs UCLA. The Bruins, however, led the Card for the entirety of the game to top Stanford 9-7 in the finals.

The Cardinal opened the tournament with another colossal win over Redlands. Fourteen different players collaborated on the 26-3 thrashing of the Bulldogs. Led by freshman and offensive powerhouse Cody Smith, the Cardinal jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first period and never looked back. Smith upped his season goal total to 15 with two additional goals in the second period and one in the third.

Drew Holland
Drew Holland (above), a sophomore goalkeeper, helped the Card keep No. 8 UCSD off the scoreboard until late in the second quarter, at which point Stanford already held an 8-0 lead. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/

Saturday, however, belonged to Bret Bonanni. The junior is now the team’s leading scorer after an incredible seven goals thus far in the tournament. Bonanni recorded a hat trick against Redlands, his third of the season, and a four-goal effort in the Cardinal’s following game against UCSD.

The victory against Redlands was not entirely offensive, however, as sophomore goalkeeper Drew Holland nabbed two saves, bringing his season total to 17. However, he was only in the cage for half of the game, before turning over responsibilities to freshman Oliver Lewis and sophomore Sam Sunde.

The Cardinal’s closest contest of the season came in their 13-6 victory over No. 8 UCSD. Stanford jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to goals by senior Alex Bowen, junior B.J. Churnside and Bonanni. Five more Stanford goals in the second period from junior Adam Abdulhamid, Bonanni, fifth-year senior Nick Hoversten, junior Griffin Bolan and sophomore Sam Pfeil increased the Cardinal’s lead to 8-0.

With only 1:18 left in the half, UCSD found the net for the first time, thanks to senior Josh Stiling. Holland showed his brilliance with seven incredible first-half saves to preserve the Cardinal’s 8-1 lead.

Boasting a just as impressive second half, Holland recorded another seven saves. However, the Tritons were more successful this half. Both teams were able to tack on two more goals in the third quarter and three in the fourth.

The second half was the first real challenge the Cardinal have faced this season. They were very evenly matched with a worthy UCSD team. The difference, however, was Stanford’s ability to play high-quality water polo for a full four quarters. Getting an early jump ended up being the difference between a photo finish and a sound victory.

Stanford was able to ride its first-half dominance to its second win of the day. A two-goal effort by Alex Bowen brought his Stanford total up to 195, five away from the amazing career feat of 200 goals. If Bowen is able to net five more shots this season, he will join a short list of Cardinal players who have hit the 200 career goal mark; he would be the fifth ever, and the first since Tony Azevedo ‘04.

His next opportunity to do so was in the semi-final game against No. 4 Cal in the semis. The Card handed the Golden Bears their first loss of the season, beating Cal 11-8. In the second quarter, a 2-0 shutout by the Cardinal, with both goals netted by Bonanni, made the difference in a game that was otherwise goal for goal.

With the win over Cal, the Card advanced to the finals of the NorCal Classic, taking on the defending champions of the NorCal Classic, UCLA. The No. 2-ranked Bruins bested the Card to repeat as champions. By halftime, UCLA had built a 6-4 lead over the Cardinal that it maintained throughout the game, ultimately beating Stanford 9-7. In the fourth quarter, the Bruins’ defense shut out the No. 1 Card offensively, stopping all three of the Cardinal’s power plays.

The Cardinal’s next game will be Saturday against Chapman at 12:40 p.m. in the Aggie Shootout.

Contact Carlie Tenenbaum at carliet ‘at’

I’m Carlie Tenenbaum and I’m a sophomore. I’m from San Diego, born and raised, but love life up here on the Farm. I’m a political science major by day, and a sports writer off the clock. I cover field hockey, women’s lacrosse, and bits of both men’s and women’s water polo. I played both field hockey and lacrosse in high school and love staying connected to the sports through writing.

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