Men’s water polo captures MPSF title

Dec. 2, 2014, 10:02 p.m.

No. 2 Stanford (25-3, 7-1 MPSF) captured its fifth MPSF Tournament title and first since 2004 this past weekend in Long Beach, California. The Cardinal won three straight matches to capture the title.

Their first victim was the Pepperdine University Waves. Stanford jumped on the Waves right from the start taking a 3-0 lead behind two goals from junior driver BJ Churnside and one goal from junior driver Bret Bonnani, giving the Cardinal a lead they would not relinquish.

Alex Bowen scored a team-high 4 goals in the semifinal victory over USC, ending his MPSF career on a high. (The Stanford Daily)

Stanford looked powerful on offense as it featured nine different scorers on the game.

Pepperdine scored the next goal of the game to start the second quarter but the Cardinal would answer with 3 goals from senior utility Alex Bowen, redshirt sophomore Adam Abdulhamid and sophomore driver Reid Chase. Stanford’s offensive flurry was both unabated and constant as they scored at least three times in every quarter. The other goals came from senior defender Nick Hoversten, junior Adam Warmoth and sophomore driver Sam Pfeil.

The 13-4 win propelled Stanford into the semi-finals of the tournament where they faced USC, the defending champions.

Here, Bowen stole the show for the Cardinal with a game-high 4 goals, as the senior seemed determined to end his MPSF career on a high. The 7-4 victory over the Trojans was Stanford’s seventh in a row and 24th on the year. It was also their second victory of the year against USC. However, Stanford would have to wait until the fourth quarter to unleash its offense, as the game was a low-scoring 4-4 tie entering that period.

Bonnani opened the quarter with a 6-on-5 goal, and when USC missed on two shot attempts, Bowen was there to capitalize. He converted both Trojan misses into Stanford counter-attack goals to ensure the Cardinal moved on to the final. On the defensive end, sophomore goalie Drew Holland posted a remarkable performance with 17 saves for the game, including three in the final quarter.

The win was by no means easy for the Cardinal, however, who struggled early on. USC opened up the game with a goal from Rex Butler on a power play, although Churnside equalized things just before the end of the first period for Stanford.

Bowen went to work in the second quarter, as he would for the whole game. He opened up the quarter by finishing a power play opportunity and followed that with another goal to put Stanford ahead 3-1. The Trojans would counter with a goal, though, trailing the Cardinal by only 3-2 at the half.

Bonnani pushed Stanford back ahead by two in the third with a counter attack goal at the beginning of the quarter, but USC seemed to have an infinite supply of answers as Marc Vonderweidt poured in back to back goals to tie the game before the last quarter.

But Stanford responded and walked away with a 7-4 win and a spot in the finals.

They were set to face the No. 4 Long Beach State 49ers, who upset the No. 1 UCLA Bruins in the other semifinal.

Stanford’s victory was a close one, as they beat Long Beach by only 1 goal, finishing with a 9-8 mark. The victory was ensured by Churnside, who poured in 2 fourth quarter goals for the Cardinal. Stanford was trailing Long Beach 8-7 halfway through the quarter but Churnside put away a power play goal to equalize things. It was with just 0:32 left in the game that Stanford drew an ejection and called a timeout to come up with a plan to claim the title. Churnside did just that with 15 seconds left, powering a shot into the cage and giving Stanford its 9-8 victory. Churnside finished the game with a hat trick.

The beginning of the game was dominated by the 49ers. They scored the first two goals of the game and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead.

Stanford would score four unanswered goals behind Hoversten, Churnside and two strikes from Bowen at the end of the second and beginning of the third period. However, the teams traded goals for the next three as a Bonnani goal was sandwiched between two goals from Long Beach’s Zacchary Kappos. But, yet again, Bowen scored to even the game 6-6 going into the final quarter.

Abdulhamid grabbed a 7-6 lead for Stanford in the final quarter, but Long Beach added two more, once again taking the lead 8-7. Another Bowen goal, his third of the game, would tie the game once more. Then Churnside went to work and stole the tournament title with a 9-8 victory for Stanford.

Bowen was named Tournament MVP for his impressive play over the weekend. Bret Bonnani, BJ Churnside and Drew Holland were all named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Cardinal will be competing amongst six other teams once more this season in the NCAA Championship on Dec. 6-7 at UC San Diego. Stanford grabbed the No. 2 seed and opens up NCAA tournament play against No. 3 seed USC in the semifinals on Saturday.

Contact Jamie Neushul at jneushul ‘at’ 

Jamie Neushul works on water polo coverage for The Daily. She is on the women's water polo team in her sophomore year here at Stanford. She is a double major in Communication and English and aspires to pursue a career in journalism or possibly go to law school. She is from Santa Barbara, California and loves to go to the beach and surf.

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