Six straight goals stretching from the final 2:38 of the first half to the first 3:23 of the second overturned a 3-2 deficit and helped No. 3 Stanford women’s water polo blow past top-ranked USC, 9-5, Sunday at Avery Aquatic Center.
The win improved the Cardinal to 16-1 overall and 2-0 in MPSF play, and snapped USC’s (20-1, 5-1 MPSF) 27-game winning streak which dated back to last season.
Cory Dodson, one of two Cardinal players to score twice Sunday along with Maggie Steffens, bookended the 6-0 run, starting it with a game-tying goal with 2:38 remaining in the second period then finishing a textbook 3-on-2 to put Stanford in front 8-3 with 4:37 remaining in the third period. Goalie Gabby Stone fed Kiley Neushul on the fast break, and, with Dodson and Ashley Grossman with her, Neushul swam in, whipped a pass across her body to Dodson who coolly finished into the far corner past USC goalie Flora Bolonyai.
The goal capped a run that, after Dodson’s opener, continued with Anna Yelizarova’s go-ahead penalty shot 45 seconds prior to halftime. The Cardinal got a stop defensively and took possession with 12 seconds remaining in the half. Kelsey Suggs moved the ball past half-tank and passed to Annika Dries, whose shot from deep on the left wing got off just before the buzzer and beat Bolonyai into the far upper-90 to give the Cardinal a 5-3 lead at the break and put momentum firmly on Stanford’s side.
It took just 50 seconds for the Cardinal to extend its lead to three in the second half, as freshman Dani Jackovich outmuscled two Trojan defenders in front of the goal and pushed a goal through, forcing a USC timeout. Kaley Dodson fired home to the near post two minutes later before younger sister Cory’s goal which made the advantage five.
While the offense deserved its plaudits, it was the Cardinal defense which really carried the day by limiting the MPSF’s most proficient offense to a season-low five goals. The Trojans entered the game averaging 15.9 goals a game, but could find few answers against the determined Cardinal. Stanford goalie Gabby Stone made a career-high 17 saves in the contest, while her defense, paced by Dries, Grossman and Kaley Dodson, made numerous field blocks to further stifle the Trojans.
Colleen O’Donnell scored twice for USC, and broke the Cardinal’s run with her second goal at 3:30 of the third period. But Stone and the Cardinal defense remained sturdy, surrendering just one more, a Kaleigh Gilchrist effort with 3:07 remaining in the game.
Stanford had taken an early 2-0 lead in the contest behind first-period goals from Jamie Neushul and Maggie Steffens, but USC used a 3-0 run of its own powered by scores from O’Donnell, Jennifer Steifel, and Monica Vavic to take a one-goal lead at the 3:03 mark of the second frame.
USC – 2 1 1 1 = 5
Stanford – 2 3 3 1 = 9
Stanford Goal Scorers: C. Dodson 2, Steffens 2, K. Dodson, Dries, Jackovich, J. Neushul, Yelizarova
USC Goal Scorers: O’Donnell 2, Gilchrist, Stiefel, Vavic
Goalie Saves: Stone 17 (S); Bolonyai 12 (USC)