Epic matchup looms against UCLA

April 10, 2015, 12:22 a.m.

There are countless tremendous rivalries in all of sports. Yankees-Red Sox. Ravens-Steelers. Auburn-Alabama. And in the realm of women’s water polo, nothing stands up to the ferocity with which Stanford and UCLA have battled over the last several seasons.

This Saturday, the latest installment of this rivalry will reach fever pitch as Stanford women’s water polo will take the pool against rival UCLA in what will be the teams’ final bout until the postseason.

Senior Kiley Neushul (left) has seen her share of UCLA-Stanford match-ups during her career at Stanford in what has become an intense rivalry between the two teams. After the next installment of the series, the winner will likely leave Avery Aquatic Center with the No. 1 ranking in the nation.
Senior Kiley Neushul (left) has seen her share of UCLA-Stanford match-ups during her career at Stanford in what has become perhaps the sports’ most intense rivalry. Whoever wins Saturday’s meeting will likely leave Avery Aquatic Center with the No. 1 ranking in the nation (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/StanfordPhoto.com)

While Stanford defeated UCLA 10-6 in early February in the first matchup between these two teams, the No. 1 Bruins subdued the No. 2 Cardinal in a 7-6 overtime loss three weeks later at the UC Irvine Invitational.

UCLA has had its typical success this season: It is ranked first in the nation, with its only loss coming to Stanford, and remains a predictable powerhouse in the MPSF, where it is currently undefeated in conference play.

The winner of Saturday’s game will leave with the top national ranking and a leg up in the conference.

Stanford is coming off a dominant 23-6 win against San Jose State during which five players notched hat tricks. If the team can play with the same offensive and defensive discipline it displayed against the Spartans, it may be able to come out with its second win against Bruins.

Games between these two powerhouses are always full of excellent polo and high emotion.

“You love the energy and the challenge,” said junior Maggie Steffens.

“Everyone on the team is ready for this game,” said senior Kiley Neushul. “We’re excited to have the chance to play such a talented team at home.”

Though emotions can run high in such an intense rivalry, if controlled, they can yield productive adrenaline; if unchecked, they can cause dangerous lapses in focus.

“I am more than prepared for their aggressive tactics,” said senior Ashley Grossman. “We test each other in practice…we’ll be prepared for anything in the game.”

Neushul elaborated: “This is a highly anticipated game for us. But we’ve all done this for most of our lives, controlling our emotions is something we learned to do very early on in our water polo careers.”

The players’ elaborate mental and physical preparation not only defines Stanford’s program, but also allows them to thrive on intensity within games.

“Once the game is underway, adrenaline settles, and we’ll certainly be able to focus on our goals,” Neushul said.

“It’s going to be intense, and we love it,” Steffens concluded.

This game will be Saturday at noon at the Avery Aquatics Center. It is a likely preview of the NCAA tournament that will also be hosted by Stanford May 8-10.

Contact Carlie Tenenbaum at carliet ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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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