This Sunday, the No. 5 Stanford men’s water polo team (20-7, MPSF 5-4) suffered a heartbreaking 13-8 loss to No. 2 Cal (21-5, MPSF 7-2) in the Big Splash, snapping the Cardinal’s six-game win streak. The game was also Stanford’s last regular season game before the MPSF tournament, which begins on Friday, and was the second time this season that the Cardinal were defeated by the Bears, having previously lost to them 14-11 in early October.
“Winning today would’ve been great, but we’re still on a pretty similar path, as we figured we would have [been] before the game even started,” assistant coach Jonathan Barnea said. “We’re going to clean up some of the little things and get ourselves feeling good and excited to make a run [during the MPSF tournament].”
The Bears started off strong, scoring two goals within the first minute, seeming as if they were taking the Cardinal by surprise. After junior goalkeeper Drew Holland blocked a 5-meter penalty shot, the Cardinal responded, scoring two consecutive goals of their own, one from junior Jackson Kimbell and another from senior Bret Bonanni. The Bears were able to score one more goal before the end of the quarter, putting them ahead by one.
Senior Griffin Bolan opened the second quarter with a goal for the Cardinal, followed by a cross-cage bullet from senior BJ Churnside, putting Stanford up 4-3. A series of back-and-forth goals followed, including one from junior Reid Chase and Bonanni’s second goal of the game. The first half ended with a tie score of 6-6.
Less than a minute into the second half, Chase netted a goal on a 5-meter penalty shot. Freshman Blake Parrish scored the next goal of the game, putting the Cardinal up 8-6. Cal went on a three-goal streak to finish off the quarter, leading 9-8 heading into the final period.
The fourth quarter was not kind to the Cardinal, which did not manage to score a single goal. The Bears had four unanswered goals in the quarter, adding to their three goals from the quarter before to make a total of seven consecutive goals for Cal. Despite the Cardinal’s best attempts to score, the Cal defense was too strong, running down the clock until the game was over, with the Bears coming out on top 13-8.
With less than 30 seconds left in the game, the referees called a double exclusion, sending both Bonanni and Cal junior Chandler Jarrels to the penalty area, the fourth double exclusion of a very physical game.
While this game was a tough loss, the season is not yet over for the Cardinal, as MPSF tournament play is about to begin. This weekend Stanford will have to play some of its best water polo and find ways to beat some of the top-ranked opponents against which it has struggled this season if it wants a berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“We’re taking it one game at a time. Our focus is going to be on our first game on Friday, and we’ll take it from there,” Barnea said.
The team heads to Los Angeles for the MPSF conference tournament, which starts on Friday and continues through the weekend. All tournament games will be streamed live, and Sunday’s games will be aired on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Selby Sturzenegger at selby ‘at’ stanford.edu.