Jan. 29, 2007
The Stanford women's water polo team begins its season on Friday, February 2 (4:00pm), when Hawaii comes to the
Avery Aquatic Center for a re-match of the 2006 NCAA third place
game where the Cardinal defeated Hawaii 8-5.
Action continues on February 3-4 with the Stanford Invitational,
which includes all of 2006's top five national finishers.
The Upcoming Season
The Stanford women's water polo team has established itself
as one of the strongest and most consistent forces in the
world of collegiate water polo, and aims to continue its success
in 2007. Last year, the program captured its fourth title in the
toughest women's water polo conference in the country, before
nailing down a ninth-straight top-three collegiate finish. In
2007, Stanford is determined to defend its MPSF title, and claim
the national title that has eluded the squad since 2002.With four
All-Americans, 11 solid returners and five promising newcomers,
the Cardinal has both the enthusiasm and the skills to battle
its way to the top this season.
Head Coach John Tanner begins his 10th season at the helm
of the Cardinal with familiar expectations. His squads at
Stanford have played in all six NCAA Championships, a feat no
other program in the nation has accomplished. Consistent success
has set the bar high for the program.
"Like every Stanford water polo team, we set out with the
intention of competing for a national championship," says
Tanner. "That's true of all teams at Stanford, and it has certainly
been the case every year for us. We intend to compete everyday
in practice with an eye toward competing in the last game, the
last tournament, the last day of the collegiate season."
The 2007 squad will be led by captains Alison Gregorka and
Katie Hansen, a pair of seniors with a wealth of collegiate and
international experience. Their familiarity with championship
situations, including three NCAA Tournaments, makes the duo
well-equipped to lead the Cardinal this season.
"Both of our captains are fully aware of what it takes to be
successful at Stanford and in the world of water polo," says
Tanner. "I think they will bring a lot of experience, insight and a
personal drive to excel."
The two remaining seniors, Christina Hewko and Meridith
McColl will also be key leaders for the Cardinal, as will juniors
Jacquelyn Gauthier and Megan Nesland. The Stanford squad is
rounded out by five returning sophomores and five talented
Senior Meridith McColl returns for her fourth season in the
cage, boasting more than 500 career saves. Last season, the
Mission Viejo, Calif. native started all 29 games for the Cardinal
and was key to the team's defensive dominance. A three-time
All-MPSF honoree and a two-time All-American,McColl has
been an extremely reliable goalkeeper who has been known to
step up for the Cardinal in big games.
"We'll look to Meridith to anchor our defense this year," says
Tanner. "Traditionally we've had the strongest defense in the
country, with the lowest goals allowed per game, year in and
year out. Goalkeeping has been a big part of that success."
Freshman Kate Heddleston (Granite Bay, Calif.) will also
compete for time in goal for the Cardinal. The newcomer
recently completed an outstanding prep career at Granite Bay
High School, and was named a 2006 All-American.
"Kate is a very good athlete," says Tanner. "She has a lot of
promise and we're very excited about her prospects."
Two-Meter Offensive and Defensive Players
The Cardinal has solid experience at the two-meter position
this season, with seniors Alison Gregorka and Christina Hewko
returning to play key roles. Hewko, a three-time All-American,
will be a vital part of the two-meter offense. Last season, she
scored 24 times and will be once again looked upon to generate
goals for the Cardinal.
"Christina is dynamic, creative and hard-nosed," says Tanner.
"She's a very multi-dimensional player, who can also play very
well on the perimeter."
Gregorka brings experience and strength to the Cardinal lineup,
as well as the ability to contribute on both offense and defense.
"Alison is a reliable, tough defender," says Tanner."She is good at
fronting, strong when she plays behind, is a good shot-blocker and
counterattacks well from the two-meter position. She's very mature
and poised,which is why she's such a valuable asset to our team."
Sophomore Jessica Steffens also returns to the two-meter
position for the Cardinal. In her first collegiate season, the
Danville, Calif. native saw significant time as a two-meter
defender and proved to be a solid force in front of the goal,
eager to step up and challenge some of the top offensive players
from opposing teams. Freshman Alex Koran (Tustin, Calif.)
rounds out the Stanford two-meter players, joining the Cardinal
this season after a successful career at Tustin High School.
At the driver position, Tanner returns a solid core of players,
including both of last year's top scorers. Senior Katie Hansen, a
two-time All-American and three-time All-Conference player,
scored 47 goals last season and tallied her 100th career goal in
"Katie can score the ball in so many different ways and in different
positions," says Tanner. "She is a very good passer and
great goal-scorer who has been particularly effective in 6-on-5
and from the perimeter. She also finds open space really well
and is a good counter-attack player."
The Cardinal also returns 2006 MPSF Newcomer of the Year
Lauren Silver to the line-up. In her first collegiate season, she
netted a team-leading 52 goals, scored in 26 of 29 games and led
the team in scoring on 11 occasions.
"Lauren is a really strong outside shooter and made a big
impact on our team and in the MPSF last year," says Tanner. "We
expect that she will continue to improve and will be a critical
part of our offense, providing that outside shooting threat that
she showed last year."
Junior Jackie Gauthier brings a broad range of skills to the
driver position, with the ability to score from the outside, attack
the goal and be creative in front of the net. The Irvine, Calif.
native scored 20 goals last season, including a career-high four in
the season-opener. This season, she will be looked upon to continue
to step up on offense for the Cardinal. Another junior,
Megan Nesland, brings quickness and speed to the driver position.
Nesland is a solid defensive player who can contribute in
specific defensive situations.
With a year of collegiate experience under their belts, sophomores
Kira Hillman, Heather West and Koree Blyleven are ready
to take on significant roles for the Cardinal this season. Hillman
is creative in front of the goal, a good shooter and quick on the
counter-attack.West is a strong defender, whose strength and
quickness make her a challenge to guard. Blyleven is known for
her outside shooting power, which makes her a threat from anywhere
in the pool.
In addition to the returning drivers, three Cardinal freshmen
will look to make an immediate impact in 2007. Kelsey
Holshouser (Santa Ana, Calif.) is a four-time All-American from
Foothill High School, who is known for her clever shooting ability.
Kelly Donahue (Annapolis,Md.) comes to the Farm from
the East Coast where she was a standout on the Naval Academy
Aquatic Club Team. Kelly Eaton (Menlo Park, Calif.), a local
player from Menlo-Atherton High School, will also look to step
in and make a difference for the Cardinal.
"Kelsey enjoys pressure situations and seems to be someone
who will be very comfortable playing Division I water polo,"
Tanner says. "Kelly Donahue is an aggressive perimeter defender
who has a real knack for getting herself open, creating space,
creating scoring opportunities and shooting. Kelly Eaton is tenacious
and one of the team's fastest counter-attackers."
Stanford wastes no time jumping into tough competition in
2007. In the first two weeks of the season, the Cardinal takes on
two of its top three conference challengers and hosts one of the
most competitive collegiate water polo tournaments in the
"It will be a fast start to the season this year," comments
Tanner. "We'll have a pretty clear idea of what challenges we face
by the end of that first month."
"Our conference is extremely challenging," says Tanner. "It usually
has eight or nine of the top-10 collegiate teams and is far and
away the best conference in the country. It's the most competitive
from top to bottom. There are just no easy games in the MPSF."
This season, Stanford has a chance to face some of its top
conference opponents in its home pool, however.
The home schedule his highlighted with games against USC on February
17 and UCLA on April 14. On April 20, the Cardinal heads to
Cal for the Big Splash, a battle that has traditionally been the
most highly-anticipated dual match in college water polo.