The Steve Heaston Trophy returned to Stanford Saturday as the third-ranked Cardinal came from behind to defeat No. 5 California, 11-10, in the Big Splash at Avery Aquatic Center.
The win stretched the Cardinal's winning streak to nine games, and upped the team's record to 19-4 overall and 7-1 in MPSF play. It also clinched for the Cardinal the No. 2 seed at next weekend's MPSF Tournament, set for Friday-Sunday, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Pacific. Stanford will open tournament play Friday at 11:30 a.m. against either Pepperdine, Long Beach State or UC Irvine.
Pepperdine plays UC Irvine Sunday afternoon. If Pepperdine wins, or loses by no more than two goals, the Cardinal will play the Waves Friday. If UC Irvine wins by at least three goals, the Cardinal will play Long Beach State.
Sophomore Bret Bonanni scored four goals to pace the Cardinal, which had trailed 3-0 after the opening period. Bonanni got the Cardinal on the board on a penalty shot in the second period and scored a second as the Cardinal fought back with five goals in the second period.
“Cal played very well in the first quarter, they came out and were ready to play, but I felt it was just a matter of time before we got ourselves back into the game” said Stanford head coach John Vargas. “It was all about defense. We were pretty upset to give up seven goals in the first half. It was more of our defense getting us back into our offensive series.”
BJ Churnside posted a hat trick, Forrest Watkins had two goals while Alex Bowen and Paul Rudoolph scored a goal apiece. In the cage, Drew Holland made seven saves for the Cardinal.
“[The win] felt great, I haven’t won a Big Splash since I started playing in my freshman year when I redshirted, so it feels great,” Watkins said afterwards on Senior Day.
Stanford’s five-goal second period only trimmed the California lead to two at 7-5 at halftime, as the Golden Bears scored four of their own in the frame. California blitzed the Cardinal with a pair of goals from Giacomo Cupido and Aleksa Saponjic over the opening two minutes and got a third from Mitchell Hamilton before the end of the first period.
Stanford cut the lead to one twice in the second frame, but California went ahead 7-4 before Alex Bowen’s goal 16 seconds before halftime made it 7-5 at the break.
It was third period where the Cardinal finally turned the momentum, scoring four times while Holland and the defense held the Golden Bears scoreless, turning a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead at 9-7.
Watkins got that rally started with a 6-on-5 goal at the 5:53 mark, and Churnside followed just over a minute later to bring the Cardinal even for the first time. Stanford’s defense fought off a couple of man-down situations before Bonanni zipped another goal in on a Cardinal power play at 1:58, giving Stanford its first lead of the game. The sophomore would put in another goal 13 seconds before the end of the frame to create the multi-goal cushion for the Cardinal.
Churnside got the lead to three at 10-7 just 29 seconds into the fourth period, but California would not go away. The Golden Bear offense snapped out of its drought, which lasted 11:54, by scoring two quick power-play goals at Aleksa Saponjic and Collin Smith at 6:08 and 5:43, respectively.
Stanford’s defense recovered, though, and continued to hold strong over the next five minutes. Watkins would provide the clincher with 20 seconds remaining, firing home to make it 11-9. California would score with two seconds left, but it was too late and the Cardinal claimed its first Big Splash victory in three seasons.
“I knew they would double-team BJ, so I stepped in, hoped he’d see me, and was there to take the shot,” Watkins said of the clinching goal. “There’s nothing like it. When there’s 20 seconds, up by two, you know that’s the game.”
California – 3 4 0 3 = 10
Stanford – 0 5 4 2 = 11
Stanford Goal Scorers: Bonanni 4, Churnside 3, Watkins 2, Bowen, Rudolph
California Goal Scorers: Saponjic 3, Cupido 2, Smith 2, Gettelfinger, Hamilton, Mulcahy
Goalie Saves: Holland 7 (S); Boggan 10 (C)