The Stanford men's water polo team knows there are several challenges ahead, and for the time being the Cardinal can relax with the knowledge it has the talent and desire to meet those future tests with aplomb and grace.
The second-ranked Cardinal hosted the top teams in the nation over the weekend at the NorCal Invitational and its ground in winning the tournament title following an exquisite display of competitive spirit.
Stanford beat UCLA, 6-5, in the championship contest after edging California, 8-7, in the semifinals earlier on Sunday.
The nation's top two collegiate goalies were matched in the final contest, with Menlo School's Jimmie Sandman collecting the win for Stanford (8-0) after fending off 12 shots. UCLA's Clay Lapin, the U.S. senior national team goalie, was also brilliant but let in one too many scores.
Following a brief respite, UCLA and Stanford will get together again on Oct. 3 at Avery Aquatic Center for their regularly scheduled Mountain Pacific Sports Federation meeting.
The Bruins' football team will also be in town that day and will take on Stanford at 12:30 p.m. The water polo match likely will be played a couple of hours before the football game.
If those tailgate parties get too boring, the water polo match is all but guaranteed to be lively and entertaining.
What Sandman means to the defense is what Drac Wigo means to the offense. Wigo, a senior utility player, was electrifying all weekend and topped it off with a four-goal performance against the Bruins. His twin brother, Janson Wigo, scored twice.
Drac Wigo scored 17 goals in the four games played over the weekend. If it weren't for Sandman, he'd be a lock for Player of the Week. Of course, if not for Wigo, Sandman would be a lock.
Menlo School grad Ben Hohl scored a goal for UCLA, that coming on an early penalty shot against fellow Menlo grad Sandman.
Against Cal, Drac broke a 3-3 tie with a goal and Janson followed with another as Stanford took charge of the contest. Sacred Heart Prep grad Paul Rudolph, a freshman, scored just as the third period ended to give the Cardinal an 8-4 advantage.
UCLA knocked off top-ranked USC in the semifinals to set up the championships pairing. The Bruins took a 3-2 lead early in the second period but, thanks to Stanford's stalwart defensive effort, they went scoreless over the next 18 minutes.
By then the Wigo duo had finished off its scoring and the Cardinal held on to win the title.