Cardinal can’t tread past Bears in Big Splash

Nov. 14, 2023, 1:08 a.m.

No. 4 Stanford men’s water polo (14-7, 2-4 MPSF) floundered during their third battle against No. 2 California (19-4, 3-3 MPSF) Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Center in Berkeley, California.

The Big Splash, a competition between the Bears and the Cardinal, was held on Nov. 11 following two other season matchups earlier this fall. The Cardinal previously fell in double overtime 17-18 to the Bears on Sept. 23, but got back on their feet on Oct. 14 with a decisive regular time 9-8 win. 

Their third meeting with Cal led to a quick defeat. The Bears scored twice in the first two minutes of the game; redshirt sophomore Grant Watson answered with his first of the game to bring the score to a close 1-2. The Bears continued pushing throughout the first quarter, ending with four goals to the Cardinal’s two.

Senior Riley Pittman led the Cardinal in the first with a goal and followed with two more throughout the match, earning a hat trick — his 16th game this season scoring numerous goals. Pittman has led the team in goals this season, but it was not enough against the Berkeley offense. 

Beginning the second quarter, senior Ethan Parrish took off on his run for a hat trick, scoring twice to give the Cardinal its only goals in the second period of play. 

Junior goalkeeper Liam Harrison held his own in the net throughout the match, earning his first appearance and start since 2021, and saving a decisive 12 blocks for the Cardinal defense. Harrison ended the first half making three back-to-back blocks and a critical steal in the last 13 seconds. 

At halftime, the Cardinal were down 4-6, and the Bears kept their momentum throughout the second half. In the third, the Bears scored 3 and Stanford’s newest junior transfer Tanner Pulice was only able to put one in the back of the net. 

Pittman and Parrish completed their hat tricks in the fourth, but it was not enough as Cal extended their lead to 4, ending the match with a victory (8-12).

The Big Splash concluded the Cardinal’s regular season as they look ahead to the MPSF tournament starting on Friday, Nov. 17. Thanks to a USC loss on Saturday, Stanford will enter the tournament taking the fifth seed, hoping to secure the conference title and a ticket to the NCAAs. 

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