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Women’s Big Splash - No.2 Stanford 8, No.5 California 2

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Golden Bears have trouble scoring goals in this one.

Dora Antal and the Golden Bears will look to take down Stanford in the Big Splash this afternoon.
Cal Women’s Water Polo Twitter (@CalWWPolo)

Unfortunately, the 2017 women’s Big Splash was all Stanford Cardinal (16-1, 3-0 in MPSF). They dominated this match against the California Golden Bears (13-6, 1-3 in MPSF) by stymieing the Cal attack. Bears scored two goals, both by Calympian Dora Antal, but got nothing else. Frustratingly, the Bears either turn the ball over or shoot the ball right at the Stanford goalkeeper, Gabby Stone - who had a season high 15 saves, particularly on the numerous power play opportunities.

Stanford got a hat trick from both of their USA Olympians in Makenzie Fischer (a freshman) and Maggie Steffens (a senior), both of whom also recorded numerous field blocks and steals. Madison Berggren scored the other two goals. Stanford had a 3-0 lead after the first quarter, 5-1 at the half, and quickly turned it into an 8-1 lead with 4 minutes into the 3rd quarter.

Bears will face San Jose State next week before hosting No.1 USC in the regular season finale. A very important MPSF tournament (particularly for the Bears to leapfrog Arizona State for the 4th spot in the country/conference) will follow, which will determine if the Golden Bears will get to travel to the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis, IN.


Big Splash - Stanford Cardinal (15-1, 2-0 in MPSF) at California Golden Bears (13-5, 1-2 in MPSF)

Where: Spieker Aquatics Complex (Berkeley, CA)

When: 4 PM PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Golden Bears are looking to snap a two game losing streak after the toughest loss of the season in their last outing, a 7-6 home setback to Arizona State that drops Cal to No.5 ranking in the country. While plenty of more water polo will be played, particularly the MPSF Championship from UCLA on April 28th, the California Golden Bears need to be a top 4 teams to grab one of the three at-large bid in the NCAA tournament (to take place on May 12th from the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis, IN - where I just spent two weeks watching Cal Swimming and Diving). Of course, I believe this Cal team is better than just making the NCAA tournament - they are as talented as every other team in the country and capable of winning the NCAA championship.

There is no better way to move up the rankings than to beat your rival. Golden Bears host Stanford in the women’s version of the Big Splash this afternoon. The Stanford Cardinal was ranked No.1 in the country from the preseason until they suffered a 10-9 (OT) loss to USC in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational final down in Irvine, CA.

In the loss to ASU last week, the Bears had a 6-5 lead with 7 minutes to go but conceded back-to-back goals to ASU for the final margin. Despite the loss, the Bears are an experienced bunch led by junior Calympian Dora Antal who has scored a team high 39 goals in 17 matches. Fellow Hungarian Calympian Anna Illes is 3rd on the team with 28 goals in 17 matches. Freshman Emma Wright has scored 30 goals in 18 games to offset the loss of Spanish Calympian Roser Tarrago who has only played in 2 matches this season (not sure what is her injury or if she will return this year - I also don’t see her in the team picture below). Senior center Emily Loughlin has scored 21 goals, followed by 19 goals for Carla Carrega - last year’s breakout star when Antal, Illes, and Tarrago all took a redshirt season for the Olympics.

Inside the cage for the Golden Bears is senior keeper Madeline Trabucco who is now being used for the entire match after splitting some early season time with sophomore Madison Tagg.

The brand new coaching staff for the Golden Bears in 2016-17 season is led by Coralie Simmons with assistant Calympian coach Christopher Lee and Calympian great Heather Petri on her staff. The latest ASU loss is the lone unusual blemish on the season that saw the Bears challenged top ranked Stanford (10-7 loss in the Stanford Invitational final and 12-9 loss in the Barbara Kalbus semifinal) and UCLA (12-11 loss in Barbara Kalbus 3rd place match). Bears lost the regular season match at UCLA 10-4 the week before. It is up to the coaching staff (or the magic of Spring Break this past week) to get the Bears’ mental state correct to get back to challenging teams such as Stanford in this afternoon’s match.

In recent years, Golden Bears have finally found some success against the top ranked Stanford squad. Bears have beaten Stanford once per year in the last two years (Stanford Invitational final last year, MPSF semifinal in 2015), to snap a 40 match losing streak that came before that. Stanford features USA Olympian Maggie Steffens who has scored 43 goals. Freshman (but 2016 USA Olympian) Makenzie Fischer and Jamie Neushul contributes 35 and 27 goals, respectively.

Between the pipes for the Cardinal is senior Gabby Stone, who the Bears are fairly familiar with given the number of matches over the years. Stone took last year off to try to make the Olympic teams but wasn’t one of the two goalies on the Gold medal winning team USA.

Hopefully, this will be a close match, although I would always take a Cal rout of Stanford in any sport.

Looking at the rest of the season, Bears will visit San Jose State for a match next weekend, before hosting the currently top ranked USC for a conference match (another good opportunity to move up the rankings) on April 15th (also on the Pac-12 Networks). Bears will then play the pivotal MPSF tournament in the hope of locking up an at-large bid to make the NCAA championship.