Adam Abdulhamid and his fourth-ranked Stanford men's water polo teammates knew they missed a golden opportunity in Saturday's 12-8 loss to top-ranked UCLA in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation contest at Avery Aquatic Center.
The Cardinal (14-5 overall, 0-2 MPSF) had its chance to deliver a message to the NCAA selection committee by knocking off the unbeaten Bruins. Stanford instead faces an uphill climb to claim one of the handful of at-large picks into the postseason.
Vanessa Fraser/By David Bernal
"The season is not over by any means," Cardinal senior driver BJ Churnside said. "The biggest thing is being able to face the adversity we've seen this season. It's not the start we hoped for but there are six teams that make it to the NCAA and there's no reason we can't be one of those."
Stanford lost its third straight, matching the program's longest losing streak since dropping four straight in 1995. The Cardinal hope to end its slide Sunday when it travels to take on No. 5 Pacific.
The Cardinal hosts No. 6 UC Santa Barbara, coached by former Stanford All-American Wolf Wigo, next Saturday at 4 p.m.
"We haven't put ourselves in great shape and a lot of people may have written us off," Abdulhamid said. "But everybody on this team knows we're as good as anyone."
The Cardinal has nine victories over teams ranked in the CWPA poll, including one over No. 2 USC. There are eight games remaining to play in the regular season, six of them against teams in top 10. Throw the conference tournament into the mix and Stanford still has time to engage the doubters.
"We have big games left and we realize because its the MPSF, we have to take everyone seriously," Churnside said. "We have to treat every game like it's the championship and get ready for the end of season tournament. We're fighting for our lives at this point."
Stanford continually fought from behind against UCLA, which never trailed in the game and led by as many as five goals at one point.
The defending national champion Bruins threatened to blow the Cardinal out of the pool after taking a 6-3 advantage midway through the second period. Churnside scored twice, including with five seconds left on the game clock to help pull Stanford within 6-5 at the intermission.
Abdulhamid completed the comeback out of halftime, tying the game in the first minute. It was all UCLA the rest of the way.
"Once you tie the game, your focus has to be entirely on defense," Abdulhamid said. "You've got to get a stop."
The Bruins regained the lead when senior Daniel McClintick was in the right place after Anthony Daboub's shot hit off the crossbar straight to McClintick, who pushed it into the net before Stanford goalie Drew Holland could react.
UCLA scored four goals from beyond five meters, including one with less than a second left on the shot clock.
"Those are the kind of goals you can't give up," Abdulhamid said. "You have to lock down. That starts with defensive communication."
Churnside and Abdulhamid each scored three times to lead Stanford. Bret Bonanni added a pair of goals and is nine shy of matching Tony Azevedo's school and conference all-time mark of 332 goals.
The Stanford women's team placed fourth at the Pre-National Invitational on Saturday in a race held on this year's NCAA championship course at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park.
Vanessa Fraser, a junior, finished 26th to pace the Cardinal, which scored 244 points and seemed to enhance its chances for an NCAA at-large berth if it doesn't qualify automatically. No. 5 Michigan won with 131 points, followed by No. 2 Colorado and No. 4 Oregon.
No. 9 Stanford beat three ranked teams No. 7 Georgetown, No. 25 Villanova, No. 27 Texas, and No. 29 Cornell. Stanford ran with nearly the same team that finished third at the Washington Invitational on Oct. 2, but was without that race's winner, Aisling Cuffe, who didn't make the trip because of an injury precaution, and Elise Cranny, who has yet to race this year as she works through an injury.
Fraser, a second-team outdoor track All-America last spring, clocked 20:32.1 to run No. 1 for Stanford for the first time in a competitive race. She also led the Card at the 2014 USF Invitational, but the team ran a controlled pace in that season-opener.
Sophie Chase, who finished No. 7 for Stanford last week, charged to second on the team, finishing 41st overall in 20:41.0. Stanford's No. 3, for the second meet in a row, was freshman Hannah Long, in 49th in 20:45.6.
Molly McNamara was 68th in 20:57.7 and Julia Maxwell, a sophomore from Marin County, was Stanford's No. 5 runner.
Over the final half of the 6-kilomer (3.73-mile) race, Maxwell moved up 78 places and finished 79th overall in 21:01.2. It was Maxwell's second consecutive top-five team finish. Last year, she ran in only one cross-country race.
Stanford next competes at the Pac-12 Championships, Oct. 30 in Colfax, WA.