By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online
Freshman Ashley Grossman appreciated the "oldies" warm-up music provided by a past championship team from Stanford and said it added to the comfort level of playing at home.
Grossman scored four goals and the top-ranked and top-seeded Stanford women's water polo team beat Hawaii, 13-3, Friday morning in a quarterfinal of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament at Avery Aquatic Center.
Senior Pallavi Menon, junior Jillian Garton and sophomores Kaley Dodson and Kaitlyn Lo each added two goals for the Cardinal (22-1), which advances to Saturday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal match against California, which downed Arizona State, 13-12, in double overtime in the day's final quarterfinal.
Kate Baldoni recorded nine saves for Stanford, the defending NCAA champions, which is looking for its fifth MPSF tournament title, and its first since 2006. Freshman Emily Dorst played the final 4:03 and did not allow a goal.
The last time Stanford hosted, and won, the MPSF tournament was in 2003 and the Cardinal beat UCLA in five overtimes to capture the tournament title and advance to San Diego for the NCAA tournament.
Cardinal coach John Tanner thought it would be a nice reminder if the 2003 team, which included Laurel Champion, Julie Gardner and Jackie Frank, sent a tape of their warmup music for the current team members.
"We listened to music that was popular when we were in sixth grade," Grossman said. "It was fun and cool and comforting."
Grossman and fellow freshman Kiley Neushul arrived at Stanford with a load of responsibilities that included replacing a pair of Olympians in Melissa Seidemann and Annika Dries, who took the year off to train with the U.S. Olympic team.
Grossman and Neushul have not only exceeded expectations, they have earned the respect of their older teammates.
"All the freshmen are talented," Menon said. "They teach us stuff."
Rivals through high school, Grossman and Neushul had developed a strong friendship outside the pool.
"Something extra for me was being able to play with Kiley," Grossman said. "Kiley decided very early she was going to Stanford and that definitely had an influence on my own decision."
Knowing they would be playing without the Olympians for a year only gave Grossman and Neushul added incentive.
"We're close to those girls and those are big shoes to fill," Grossman said. "That gave us an extra connection. We wanted to bring a new element to the team."
The pair combined to earn seven MPSF Player or Newcomer of the Week honors.
"It is a different style," Menon said. "But it's a fun, creative style and rewarding. I think people were doubting us and it's fun to surprise people."
Grossman and Neushul have both been involved with U.S. national teams. Grossman said the experience helps the transition to the college game.
"It gives you more heart," Grossman said. "You have to go through treacherous tryouts against great players. That relates to playing tough games in the MPSF. I'm better prepared to play and not to rush things or play frantic."
Alyssa Lo gave the Cardinal a 1-0 lead in the first minute, a lead it would never relinquish.
Stanford scored the first four goals of the contest but the Rainbow Wahine closed to within 5-3 midway through the second period before Menon's second goal gave the Cardinal a 6-3 advantage, sparking a flurry of unanswered Stanford goals.
"They wanted to play physical and keep it low scoring," Tanner said of Hawaii. "The most important thing is we kept our spacing on offense and forced them to cover a lot of ground."
UCLA defeated San Diego State, 9-5, with Sacred Heart Prep grad KK Clark scoring twice.
"You always know when you come here it's going to be an intense game," Clark said. "The atmosphere here is right on."
USC knocked off San Jose State, 8-1, and will meet the Bruins in a semifinal Saturday.