By Sally Egan
This weekend, the No.1 Stanford men’s water polo team (12-1, 0-0 MPSF) hits the road for two games, first on Saturday at No. 8 Long Beach State (10-7, 0-0 GGC) and then on Sunday at No. 13 UC-Irvine (6-6, 0-0 GGC).
The Cardinal are entering the weekend on a hot streak, having won seven straight games, most recently defeating Santa Clara (8-5, 0-0 WWPA) by a score of 11-4 on the road on Wednesday. While the offense is clearly the strong suit of this year’s team, on Wednesday, it was the defense which put on a show, albeit after a slow first quarter. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Chun had ten saves, nine of which came in the final three quarters, and junior driver Tyler Abramson contributed three of the team’s eight saves.
Abramson also had a strong game offensively, putting up four assists and one goal — if he can remain on a hot streak, he should be a player to watch for in the coming weekend. Senior driver Dylan Woodhead will also be a key to Cardinal success this weekend, showing great accuracy in scoring on each of his four shots. Overall offensively, the Cardinal have scored double-digit goals in every game of the season.
Long Beach State put up a strong fight in the first half of last year’s matchup, as the two teams entered halftime in a 5-5 draw. The Cardinal, though, then went on to score six-straight goals to open up the second half, including two by Abramson and redshirt junior two-meter Ben Hallock. Stanford eventually won 13-7. This year, however, when the two teams met on Sept. 28 at the SoCal invitational, the 49ers were hungry for revenge but still lost 13-14, in large part due to four goals each from Abramson and sophomore two-meter defense AJ Rossman.
Sunday’s matchup comes against an Anteaters team desperate for a win to stop their three-game skid. Stanford has won the last 15 matches, and has an overall record of 21-5 against the Anteaters, with the most recent victory coming on Oct. 28, 2018, by a score of 16-10. Look for Hallock to play a big role in this game, as last year he scored a career-high eight goals against UC Irvine.
After this road trip, the Cardinal have a break before playing their final non-conference game on Oct. 28 against No.7 Pepperdine. After that, Stanford begins conference play, which consists of games against No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 USC, and No. 6 California. The average ranking of these powerhouses is 3.25, showing that November is going to feature a lot of fun matchups.
For now, though, Stanford plays at Long Beach State at noon on Saturday and then again, 24 hours later, at UC-Irvine at noon PT.