The annual Big Splash takes place this Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center as top-ranked Stanford (19-1, 5-0 MPSF) hosts No. 4 California at 5 p.m. Saturday’s contest between the will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Network with Jason Knapp and Chris Dorst on the call.
The Stanford-California women’s water polo rivalry has been a one-sided affair over the past 14 years, as the Cardinal has won the past 36 meetings and not lost to the Golden Bears since March 26, 2000. On that day, Stanford dropped a 6-3 decision to California, but since then has captured the next 36 matchups, including one already this season, as the Cardinal beat the Golden Bears 14-8 in the UCI Invitational third-place game back on Feb. 23.
Saturday’s Big Splash will also serve as Stanford’s Senior Day in which the Cardinal’s five seniors will be honored pregame. Seniors Kaley Dodson, Annika Dries, Kaitlyn Lo, Lexie Ross and Kelsey Suggs will be recognized for their contributions to the Cardinal over the past four years, and in Dries’ case, five years. Dries, who took a leave of absence in 2012 as she prepared for the Olympic Games, is a 2011 Peter J. Cutino Award winner, while the entire quintet has helped bring a pair of NCAA titles (2011, 2012) to The Farm with a chance at a third in 2014.
Stanford’s offensive power has been nearly unmatched this season, and its output is represented by a very diverse group of scorers, as Stanford boasts five 30-goal scorers. Junior driver Kiley Neushul leads the pack with 41 goals, while fellow drivers Maggie Steffens (37 goals) and Anna Yelizarova (32) are also over the 30-goal mark. Two-meter players Ashley Grossman and Dries give the Cardinal an unmatched inside threat, scoring 38 and 36 goals so far this season, respectively.
In her first season as the Cardinal’s No. 1 goalie, sophomore Gabby Stone has proven equal to the task of facing some of the nation’s top competition. The La Jolla, Calif. native ranks fourth in the MPSF with a 6.13 goals-against average and has anchored the Cardinal defense in key wins over top teams such as USC, UCLA and California. Against USC on March 30, Stone made 12 saves in Stanford’s 9-5 win, and followed that with seven saves, including a crucial stop of a Bruin penalty shot, in April 11’s 9-8 win at No. 2 UCLA.
Stanford clinched the No. 1 seed at April 25-27’s MPSF Championship with last Saturday’s win at Cal State Bakersfield. With the top seed in hand, the Cardinal receives a bye into next Saturday’s semifinal at 2:30 p.m.
California (17-6, 2-3 MPSF) slipped into at tie at No. 4 with Arizona State in the Varsity Top 20 Poll this week after suffering a 6-5 upset Saturday against the Sun Devils. Since putting together a six-game winning streak over the first three weeks of February, the Golden Bears have gone 4-5 over their next nine games heading into Saturday’s clash with Stanford. California is led in the pool by the the MPSF’s leading scorer, Dora Antal, who averages 3.15 goals per game and has 63 goals total. In the cage, Madeline Trabucco owns a goals-against average of 8.00.