No. 1 Stanford women’s water polo captured its 11th straight victory and fifth straight perfect MPSF conference season with a 9-6 victory in Saturday’s Big Splash over No. 4 California at Avery Aquatic Center.
The win is also the 37th in a row for the Cardinal (20-1, 6-0 MPSF) over the Golden Bears (17-7, 2-4 MPSF), continuing a streak that dates back to 2000.
Stanford, which clinched the top seed at next weekend’s MPSF Championship, will begin that tournament Saturday, April 26 at 2:30 p.m., taking on the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between No. 4 California and No. 5 San Jose State.
Ashley Grossman and Anna Yelizarova each scored twice in the win, while Annika Dries supplied the goal that iced the game with 1:15 to play. The Neushul sisters, Jamie and Kiley, each scored a goal while Kelsey Suggs and Maggie Steffens netted one apiece.
In goal, Gabby Stone was strong, making nine saves while anchoring a defense that held California to just one goal in the second half. That defensive effort was key in the Cardinal steadily pulling away from what was a one-goal game at halftime.
Early on it appeared that Stanford would make quick work of California, as goals from both Neushuls, Steffens and Yelizarova staked the Cardinal to a 4-1 lead after the opening period. The Golden Bears would make a strong comeback, however, getting goals from Ashley Young and Dora Antal to pull to within one at 4-3 just 3:22 before the break.
Grossman broke the Cardinal drought with a tough goal from inside two meters, but was answered 46 seconds later by Anna Illes’ 6-on-5 goal. The teams would trade goals once more before the break, as Suggs and Illes each scored with just over a minute to go.
The defenses would take over as the second half got underway, as the teams managed just one goal between them. That goal, however, was crucial to the Cardinal effort as Grossman netted her second of the game to give Stanford a two-goal cushion. Dries made the key play to start the game-changing sequence, stealing a long pass from California goalie Madeline Trabucco, and feeding Grossman ahead of the Golden Bear defense for the fast-break goal.
In the final frame, Yelizarova would cash in on the power play to make it a three-goal game with 4:28 to go, and Dries would net a power-play goal of her own just over a minute later to ice the game for Stanford.
California – 1 4 0 1 = 6
Stanford – 4 2 1 2 = 9
Stanford Goal Scorers: Grossman 2, Yelizarova 2, Dries, J. Neushul, K. Neushul, Steffens, Suggs
California Goal Scorers: Antal 2, Illes 2, McKee, Young
Goalie Saves: Stone 9 (S); Trabucco 7 (C)