Top-ranked Stanford women’s water polo (17-1, 3-0 MPSF) begins it’s two-game road weekend Friday with a visit to No. 2 UCLA, followed by a matchup at Cal State Bakersfield Saturday at 1 p.m. Friday’s contest between the Cardinal and Bruins is set for a 1:30 p.m. start on the Pac-12 Network with Greg Mescall and Chris Dorst on the call.
Stanford spends its second week atop the CWPA Varsity Top 20 Poll as it visits No. 2 UCLA and Cal State Bakersfield, and first as the sole No. 1. After March 30’s 9-5 victory over USC the Cardinal leapt from No. 3 to a share of the top spot with UCLA, but in this Wednesday’s poll the Bruins lost a couple of votes and slipped to No. 2.
Stanford’s season to this point has been the story of two winning streaks, broken up only by a single defeat, that being a 9-6 setback to UCLA on Feb. 23. The Cardinal opened the campaign with nine straight wins until the loss to the Bruins in the UCI Invitational semifinals, but since that stumble has put together eight straight victories. Most recently, the Cardinal defeated No. 5 Arizona State, 14-4, behind four goals apiece from senior two-meter Annika Dries and junior two-meter Ashley Grossman and a hat trick from junior driver Kiley Neushul. The Cardinal defense also continued its recent run of form, holding the Sun Devils scoreless for the final 26:41 after allowing four first-period goals.
UCLA (21-2, 3-0 MPSF) slipped to No. 2 in the Varsity Top 20 Poll this week after sharing the No. 1 spot with Stanford last week. The Bruins defeated Cal State Bakersfield, 14-8, last Saturday to stay even with the Cardinal at 3-0 in MPSF play and run its winning streak to six games. UCLA, which has lost only to the Cardinal and USC this season, is led by the scoring of Emily Donohoe (46 goals) and Rachel Fattal (34) while in the cage Sami Hill is second in the MPSF with a 4.77 goals-against average and third with 9.86 saves per game.
Cal State Bakersfield (12-18, 0-4 MPSF) seeks its first MPSF win when it hosts the Cardinal Saturday. The Roadrunners are led by the play of Janelle Shelby (48 goals) and Kristen Jensen (47) while in goal Courtney Wahlstrom is second in the conference with 10.11 saves per game.
The Stanford defense’s recent results show a return to the form that made it once of the top units in the MPSF last season. Sophomore goalie Gabby Stone has stepped into the starter’s role for the first time this year and meshed with the unit, which over the past two games has posted strong outings against No. 1 USC and No. 5 Arizona State. Against the Trojans, Stone and the defense held USC scoreless for 7:33 spanning both sides of halftime, a span during which Stanford scored six straight goals to turn a 3-2 deficit into an 8-3 lead. Last Saturday against the Sun Devils, the Cardinal recovered from surrendering four goals in the opening 5:19 to shut Arizona State out for the remaining 26:41 of the contest.
Stanford’s offense hasn’t had any issues this season, as the Cardinal ranks second in the MPSF with 13.94 goals per game and is led by five 30-goal scorers: Maggie Steffens (35), Ashley Grossman (34), Annika Dries (33), Kiley Neushul (33) and Anna Yelizarova (30). This quintet accounts for 65.7 percent of the Cardinal’s offense, combining for 165 of the team’s 251 goals this season.