Stanford and USC meet for the first time in 2014, and for the first time since last May’s memorable NCAA Championship Game in which the Trojans defeated the Cardinal, 10-9, in golden-goal, quadruple overtime. Sunday’s contest between the third-ranked Cardinal and top-ranked Trojans is set for a 5 p.m. start on the Pac-12 Network with Jason Knapp and Chris Dorst on the call.
Stanford’s Strong Start To The Season
Stanford enters Sunday’s contest with a 15-1 overall record with its only setback coming against UCLA, falling 9-6 in the UCI Invitational semifinals on February 23. That loss actually prevented a much-anticipated matchup between Stanford and USC in the final, so fans had to wait another month until Sunday’s scheduled meeting.
Stanford opened the year on a nine-game winning streak, and since the loss to UCLA has won six in a row. The Cardinal most recently nabbed a couple of wins in San Diego, defeating No. 13 UC San Diego 21-7 Sunday afternoon then downing No. 20 San Diego State, 12-6, Monday. The trip south ended a two-week break for final exams for the Cardinal.
About The Opposition
USC (18-0, 3-0 MPSF), ranked No. 1 in the CWPA Varsity Top 20 Poll, has won 25 straight games dating back to last season as it enters Sunday’s showdown at Avery. Sunday’s contest will be the third of the weekend for the Trojans, who will host Hartwick Thursday followed by a Saturday visit to San Jose State before coming to The Farm. The Trojans are led by the scoring of All-American Monica Vavic (49 goals) and Stephania Haralabidis (37), while in goal Flora Bolonyai leads the MPSF with a 4.14 goals-against average.
Well-Rounded Cardinal Offense
Sunday’s contest will feature the top offensive teams in the MPSF, as USC leads the conference with 15.94 goals per game followed by Stanford’s 14.40 average. For Stanford, it is led by sophomore driver Maggie Steffens’ 30 goals, with juniors Ashley Grossman and Kiley Neushul at 29 goals apiece, senior Annika Dries at 27 and sophomore Anna Yelizarova at 25. Stanford boasts one of the top two-meter groups in the country, as Dries, a 2012 Olympian, and Grossman have 56 goals combined, and freshman Dani Jackovich has added 14 in a reserve role in the hole.
Stanford’s goalie trio of Gabby Stone, Emily Dorst and Julia Hermann will see its first action against USC Sunday. Over the past years the Cardinal has had Amber Oland and Kate Baldoni in the cage against the Trojans, and Sunday’s game will be the first start for either of the current three against the Trojans. Stone, the No. 1 goalie, is third in the MPSF with a 6.62 goals-against average, and has 8.05 saves per game, while Dorst has made 27 saves in reserve action.
Last Year’s Championship Game
The Cardinal and Trojans played probably the greatest collegiate women’s water polo game of all-time in last May’s national title game. The teams played a total of 45:47, into quadruple overtime, which included 8:47 of sudden-death overtime which ended when USC’s Anni Espar scored the winner to give USC the 10-9 victory. The loss ended Stanford’s hope for a national-title three-peat.