The top-ranked Stanford women's water polo team won its 11th straight match and recorded its fifth straight perfect Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference season by beating visiting California, 9-6, in Saturday's Big Splash at Avery Aquatic Center.
Stanford, which clinched the regular-season title, earned the top seed at this weekend's MPSF Championship at USC. Stanford will open Saturday at 2:30 p.m., taking on the winner of Friday's quarterfinal between No. 4 California and No. 5 San Jose State. The title match is Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
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 made 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 traded goals once more before the break, as Suggs and Illes each scored with just over a minute to go.
The defenses took over in the second half, 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 cashed in on a 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.
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