Bolan, Chase help Stanford men advance in NCAA tournament

There was nothing specifically designed though it seemed only fitting that senior Forrest Watkins score the first goal in the NCAA tournament, which got under way Thursday at Avery Aquatics Center.

Watkins is one of three seniors for the Cardinal and all three have been the backbone of this young team.

"It was fun to get it going," Watkins said. "This is the best group of guys I've been around."

Griffin Bolan, who scored 13 goals during the regular season, found the back of the net three times as third-seeded Stanford opened with a 20-3 victory over Whittier in the play-in game.

Reid Chase (11 goals in the regular season) also scored three times for the Cardinal (22-5), which meets No. 2 seed Pacific (22-4) at 2:45 p.m. Saturday in the national semifinals.

"It's great to see the young guys doing well," Watkins said. "Coming in as new players there was no one around. Maybe they listened to us a little bit. It's a mature group."

Stanford faces the Tigers, enjoying their best season in school history, who were ranked first heading into the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation before losing to No. 4 USC in the semifinals. The Trojans beat Stanford in the championship.

"They have the best 2-meter man in college water polo," Watkins said of 6-foot-6, 245-pound Goran Tomasevic, who scored 62 goals this season. "You have to try and wear him down and make stops. The mindset just has to be on defense."

Pacific leads the season series with the Cardinal, winning two of the three meetings between the teams.

"They're good," Stanford coach John Vargas said of the Tigers. "They have arguably the two best players in the country. They are excellent players. We have been preparing for them and we'll be ready to play."

UOP senior Balazs Erdelyi, who leads the Tigers with 85 goals this season, won the prestigious Peter J. Cutino Award last year as the best male player in college.

Menlo School grad and senior goalie Scott Platshon played the final three quarters of the contest, while Sacred Heart Prep grad Paul Rudolph, also a senior, recorded an assist on the game's second score.

"It was awesome," Platshon said. "This was the first time I've ever played in an NCAA game and it's particularly special to be playing here, in my final weekend."

Platshon's first water polo experience, with the Stanford club team, also occurred at Avery Aquatic Center with the 12-and-under program.

"Jon Barnea (Stanford assistant) was my coach and I think he might have just moved up from Santa Barbara," said Platshon, who recorded five saves.

Watkins scored in the first 13 seconds to put Stanford ahead and scored again 2:34 later.

"Forrest is one of the best defensive players in the nation. He doesn't get enough credit," Vargas said. "Scott played extremely well."

The Cardinal scored the game's first 16 goals before the Poets (20-13) broke the streak with 5:40 left in the third quarter.

Gunn grad Gavin Kerr plays for Whittier.

Adam Abdulhamid, Connor Stapleton, BJ Churnside and Bret Bonanni each added a pair of goals as 11 different players scored for the Cardinal.

"It was nice the younger players got the opportunity to compete in such a high level event," Vargas said. "This is more depth trhan we've had in the past."

Bonanni leads the MPSF with 91 goals on the year.


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