Following two tough losses earlier in the day, the Stanford Girls 18A Water Polo club team needed something to go right Friday at the USAWP National Junior Olympics in Orange County.
Stanford’s 13-8 victory over South Coast A kept the team on the road to a possible top six finish in the Championship Division of the largest age group water polo tournament in the nation.
The 18As are 3-2 after two days. They return to action Saturday against 680 Red A, the defending champions, at Buena Park High at 9 a.m.
The Stanford 18s got the No. 1 seed because the seedings were based on the 2019 tourney, won by a Pacific Zone team. Stanford also won its qualifying tourney this season.
Stanford 18s opened Friday with a 12-11 loss to Newport Beach at Foothill High in Tustin. Stanford trailed by 7-1 before rallying, which left coach Jessica Cima with a lot of positives heading into the second match against SET Gray, an 11-7 setback.
"I would not be surprised to see either team in the finals," Cima said of Newport Beach and SET Gray.
SET Gray has a lot of Laguna Beach players, arguably the top high school girls team in SoCal and the alma mater of two-time Olympians and Stanford players Aria Fischer and Makenzie Fischer.
Against SET Gray, Stanford grabbed a 2-0 lead in the opening quarter behind goals by Sacred Heart Prep rising senior Ella Woodhead and SHP grad and incoming Stanford freshman Eleanor Facey.
Facey finished with three goals and Woodhead had one. Ashley Penner of SHP also scored three goals.
Facey gave Stanford its final lead at 4-2 by scoring from the hole position despite four defenders.
SET Gray then scored five unanswered goals to take a 7-4 lead in the third period
Facey scored her final goal to make it 7-5, but SET Gray continued to pull away.
"We were late to adjust on defense," Cima said of the outside shooting success of SET. "Our defense wasn't what we wanted it to be."
SET made adjustments after falling behind early but Stanford failed to counter.
"We couldn't score with the opportunities we had," Cima said. "The challenge is.how are we going to cope with the SoCal teams? We probably had one of the most competitive Friday brackets.”
Heading into Saturday, Cima said, "The goal was always a top-6 finish."
In the 16U Championship Division, Stanford A opened the day at Golden West College with two wins, 11-5 over Riverside A and 7-5 in a shootout over SoCal Gold B. It was 4-4 in regulation play.
Foothill knocked the 16As (4-2) out of title contention with a 9-8 decision in the final game Friday.
Stanford and 680 A meet at noon Saturday in the quarterfinals of the 13-20 placement bracket.
Mayfield 650 fell twice, 15-3 to Diablo Alliance Red A and 10-9 to SB 805 B, on Friday. The 650 enters a round robin schedule for its next three games: Saturday against Santa Cruz Waxem and SC Tritons and Sunday against Riverside A.
The Mayfield 650 B team had a little better day, splitting a pair of games in the Classic Division.
The 650 B lost to Gold Coast 10-4 but then came back to beat Southern 8-7 and will meet Shaq B on Saturday morning with a chance to place as high as fifth.
In the 14U Championship Division, Mayfield 650 downed Santa Clara 9-7 after losing to Praetorian 18-6 and will meet American River with a chance to finish 13th.
Stanford 14s dropped a pair of games, 8-5 to Vanguard Silver B and Arroyo Grande 9-4. Despite its 2-3 overall mark the 14s were placed into a round robin schedule the rest of the way.
In the 12U Championship Division, Stanford split two games Friday, losing to the SC Tritons 7-5 and beating CDM 15-5. As a result, the 27th-seeded 12s are guaranteed no worse than 12th place and fifth at best. Stanford plays Newport Beach B on Saturday.
In the 10U Championship Division, Stanford will meet Back Bay on Saturday for a chance to place fifth.