After dropping a tough overtime decision to No. 1 USC in the morning, fifth-ranked Stanford men’s water polo rebounded to defeat No. 3 California, 12-10, to take third place at the NorCal Invitational at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley.
The Cardinal begins MPSF play next Sunday at Pacific, battling the Tigers for the second time in eight days with a 12 p.m. matchup in Stockton. Stanford defeated Pacific 9-8 in overtime in Saturday’s second round at the NorCal Invitational.
Stanford (7-1) started the day coming within a goal of dealing a loss to USC in the morning semifinal, falling 8-7 in overtime.
Alex Bowen led the Cardinal with 10 goals Sunday, highlighted by a six-goal effort in the afternoon victory over California. Bret Bonanni scored six times while Griffin Bolan, BJ Churnside, Paul Rudolph and Forrest Watkins each had a goal on the day.
Drew Holland played both contests in the cage, making a total of 19 saves, including 14 against USC.
In the opener against the Trojans, Stanford struck first as Bowen’s backhander found the cage at the 6:15 mark. USC would equalize behind Rex Butler at 4:58 but Bonanni would give the Cardinal a 2-1 first-period lead by scoring 16 seconds before the horn.
The second period would see just a Mace Rapsey goal that pulled the Trojans even by halftime, but in the opening minutes of the third frame USC would jump to a 4-2 lead behind goals from Connor Virjee and Kostas Genidounias with 5:34 on the clock. Stanford would answer, however, as Rudolph and Bonanni scored at the 2:23 and 1:31 marks, respectively, to even things up at 4-4.
Watkins found the cage 42 seconds into the fourth period, and the Cardinal would extend the lead to two at 6-4 when Bowen scored his second of the game. The Trojans would cut the deficit to one at 1:40 when Genidounias scored again, and Zach Lucas would knot things up at 6-6 with a 6-on-5 goal with 55 seconds left in regulation.
Neither team could break the tie before the horn, and in the first overtime session Genidounias put the Trojans ahead to stay with 55 seconds to go. Virjee added his second with 1:31 remaining in the second session, and the Cardinal could only answer with one more goal, this one from Bowen with 25 seconds remaining.
Stanford shook off the sting of the loss with a four-goal first period against California in the afternoon. Bowen scored twice within the opening 2:01 to make it 2-0 Cardinal, and Churnside answered a Golden Bears goal with his first of the day at the 4:20 mark. Although Aleksa Saponjic and Luka Ivanovic would bring the Golden Bears even with back-to-back goals, the Cardinal would draw a 6-on-5 13 seconds before the end of the frame and Bonanni would convert on the man advantage to make it 4-3 after eight minutes.
The teams traded goals in the second period, Bowen answering an Ivanovic strike then Bolan countering a goal from Farrel South minutes before the break to make it 6-5 Cardinal.
Two goals from Bowen would sandwich one from South to extend Stanford’s lead to 8-6 just over two minutes into the third frame, but the momentum would shift to California minutes later. Collin Smith got the Golden Bears within one at 8-7 with 2:50 to go in the period, and 45 seconds later Saponjic would even it up at 8-8. Giacomo Cupido would then put the Golden Bears ahead for the first time with a goal at the 1:32 mark, capping a 3-0 California run that spanned just 1:18.
The Cardinal defense calmed down and stifled the Golden Bears the rest of the frame, and with 5:13 to go in the game Bonanni fired home for the tying goal. One minute later Colin Mulcahy put California back up a goal, but from the momentum turned firmly back to the Cardinal’s side. Bowen tied things up at 10-10 with 3:47 to play, and Bonanni gave the Cardinal an 11-10 lead just 53 seconds later. Bonanni would then add an insurance goal with 1:34 to go, and Holland and the defense would preserve the win.
Stanford – 2 0 2 2 0-1 = 7
USC – 1 1 2 2 1-1 = 8
Stanford Goal Scorers: Bowen 3, Bonanni 2, Rudolph, Watkins
USC Goal Scorers: Genidounias 3, Virjee 2, Butler, Lucas, Rapsey,
Goalie Saves: Holland 14 (S); Clark 10 (USC)
Stanford – 4 2 2 4 = 12
California – 3 2 4 1 = 10
Stanford Goal Scorers: Bowen 6, Bonanni 4, Bolan, Churnside
California Goal Scorers: Ivanovic 2, Mulcahy 2, Saponjic 2, Cupido, Russell, Smith, South
Goalie Saves: Holland 5 (S); Sibley 4 (C)