Nov. 21, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. -
The No. 3 Stanford men's water polo team clinched the second seed in the MPSF Tournament while also claiming the Steve Heaston trophy Saturday with an 8-6 victory over No. 2 California in the Big Splash at Avery Aquatic Center.
With the win the Cardinal finish the regular season 20-2, and take second in the MPSF with a 7-1 conference mark. Stanford will now face No. 7 seed UC Santa Barbara next Friday, Nov. 27 at 11:30 a.m. in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals at USC.
Stanford's eight goals were scored by eight different players Saturday, as Ryan Kent, Travis Noll, Alex Pulido, Paul Rudolph, Peter Sefton, Jacob Smith, Drac Wigo and Janson Wigo all found the back of the cage.
Goalie Jimmie Sandman came up with clutch save after clutch save in the contest, especially in the final minutes. The senior would finish the game with 13 saves.
Sandman made one of his many crucial saves just 39 seconds into the game, as California drew a five-meter penalty shot and was primed to take an early lead. But Ivan Rackov's shot to the lower corner was stopped by the outstretched arm of Sandman, and things stayed scoreless as the Cardinal crowd roared its approval.
Neither team could break the scoreless tie until the Golden Bears capitalized on a power play with 3:42 remaining, as Spencer Warden walked in and fired home from four meters out.
The teams would trade chances the rest of the period, but Warden's goal would hold up through the opening eight minutes. California would double its lead on its first possession of the second period, though, as Brian Dudley's straight-on shot from four meters out found the target, giving the Golden Bears a 2-0 advantage.
Stanford would get on the board just 59 seconds later, as Sandman's long pass started a 3-on-2 break for the Cardinal. Rudolph penetrated the California defense through the center and took the shot himself, which tipped off of California goalie Wil Toppen's arm and over the line, halving the Golden Bear lead.
But the Golden Bears would put the Cardinal in a hole, scoring twice in an 18-second span, getting goals from Zach White and Rackov to take a 4-1 lead with 2:49 to play in the half. Stanford would tighten on the defense through the rest of the half following the fourth goal, and would get a ray of hope 1:20 before the horn as Sefton took a centering pass from Drac Wigo and converted on the man-advantage to make it 4-2.
The first half had been rough on the Cardinal, as the team had plenty of chances but only two goals to show for its effort. Three shots had gone through the field but cruelly bounced off the crossbar, building the team's frustration.
Yet the Cardinal shed that frustration by the start of the second half and the team's shots began finding the target with encouraging accuracy. After winning the opening sprint, the Cardinal needed just 17 seconds to get to within a goal, as Drac Wigo's cross-tank pass found Pulido all alone a meter in front of the far post. Pulido easily finished into the open cage, rejuvenating the Cardinal fans.
From there, it only took another 1:01 for Stanford to pull even. On the man-advantage, Janson Wigo found Kent open in front and he finished the opportunity to pull the Cardinal even at 4-4. More defensive stops from the Cardinal followed, and with 4:35 to go in the frame, Janson Wigo fired home from the point to give Stanford its first lead of the game at 5-4.
Things would stay that way for the next four-plus minutes until California pressured on the 6-on-5 in the final 30 seconds. The Golden Bears took advantage of offensive rebounds to get three chances on its final trip down, and Mason Cox finally converted off of a corner throw-in with just three seconds left to send the game into the final period tied 5-5.
There, Stanford would reassert its command, as Sandman's quick-thinking gave Jeffrey Schwimer a fast break on the other end. Schwimer, all alone heading towards Toppen, was fouled from behind and a five-meter penalty was awarded to the Cardinal at the 6:29 mark. Drac Wigo stepped up and fired home into the lower-left corner, giving Stanford the 6-5 lead.
The Cardinal added on to the lead with 2:48 to play, as Noll fired a shot past Toppen to make it 7-5. At that point, Sandman took over on the defensive end, first stoning Dudley's one-time effort then knocking down Charlie Steffens' effort from the near post in the final two minutes.
With 33 seconds remaining, Warden would score the final goal of the game, but Drac Wigo was able to deftly get around his defender and draw an exclusion with just seconds left. On the re-start, a wide-open Smith would put the finishing touches on the victory with a goal from up close.
California - 1 3 1 1 = 6
Stanford - 0 2 3 3 = 8
Stanford Goal Scorers: Kent, Noll, Pulido, Rudolph, Sefton, J. Smith, D. Wigo, J. Wigo
California Goal Scorers: Warden 2, Cox, Dudley, Rackov, White
Goalie Saves: Sandman 13 (S); Toppen 7 (C)