Fourth-ranked Stanford men’s water polo was on point from start to finish Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center, bull-rushing its way to an 8-5 victory over No. 2 UCLA.
The Cardinal (11-4, 1-1 MPSF) snapped a five-game slide against the Bruins with the win, nabbing its first victory over UCLA since Oct. 11, 2009. Stanford also dealt the Bruins just its second loss of the campaign, dropping UCLA to 18-2 on the year and 0-1 in MPSF play.
Bret Bonanni led the Cardinal with three goals Saturday, while Alex Bowen, BJ Churnside, Conner Cleary, Jackson Kimbell and Forrest Watkins each added a goal.
But the story of Saturday for the Cardinal was its defense. Anchored by goalie Drew Holland’s 11 saves, the Stanford defense was especially on top of its game against the 6-on-5, snuffing out 11 of UCLA’s power-play opportunities.
That defense would help set up the Cardinal attack for the back-breaking sequence at the start of the fourth period. Churnside, with the Cardinal ahead 6-4, won the opening sprint and seconds later Bonanni got inside on the Bruin defense and scored to up the lead to three at 7-4. UCLA turned the ball over to the Cardinal within seconds of the next possession and once again the Cardinal slipped behind Bruin defenders, Watkins doing the honors and just like that Stanford enjoyed an 8-4 edge over the shell-shocked Bruins.
The Cardinal had begun to pull away from the Bruins late in the third period, after its early 3-0 lead had dwindled to 4-3 after UCLA’s Anthony Daboub scored with 3:06 left in the frame. Stanford answered right away as Churnside fired home on the 6-on-5 25 seconds later, and Bowen netted his own 6-on-5 57 seconds after Churnside’s to get the lead back to three at 6-3.
Holland set the tone in the first half, making seven saves as the Cardinal steadily ground its way ahead of the Bruins beginning with a strong hustle play from Kimbell for the game’s opening goal. Cleary found room to turnaround inside but skipped his shot off the post, however Kimbell outraced Bruins goalie Garrett Danner to the rebound and punched it in 1:17 into the game.
The defenses would control the rest of the period until just under a minute remained. After snuffing out multiple UCLA power plays, the Cardinal got its first 6-on-5 situation when Cleary drew an ejection. Forrest Watkins’ backhand was saved but the Cardinal retained possession and on its second chance made it count, as Connor Stapleton tossed across the tank to Bonanni at the near post and the sophomore cashed in to double the Stanford lead.
The Cardinal lead would get to 3-0 early in the second period as Watkins fed Cleary inside, and the two-meter man turned around and fired home.
The teams would trade goals, making it 4-1 Stanford before UCLA got a goal from Gordon Marshall two seconds before the break to make it 4-2.
Stanford – 2 2 2 2 = 8
UCLA – 0 2 2 2 = 6
Stanford Goal Scorers: Bonanni 3, Bowen, Churnside, Cleary, Kimbell, Watkins
UCLA Goal Scorers: Mirarchi 2, Barabino, Daboub, Marshall, P. Reynolds
Goalie Saves: Holland 11 (S); Danner 6 (UCLA)