Stanford championship dreams sink in semifinal loss

Forrest Watkins still gets a chance to end his Stanford men's water polo career with a victory. It just won't feel the same.

BJ Churnside and Alex Bowen each scored three goals but third-ranked Stanford lost, 11-10, to second-ranked Pacific in the NCAA national semifinals Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center.

Watkins scored with 3:19 remaining to play to give the Cardinal (22-6) a 10-9 advantage. Moments later he was ejected for the third time and fouled out.

"I don't want to put any added pressure on Forrest but as he goes, we go," Stanford coach John Vargas said. "He had a great game and needed more help from the perimeter. Forrest has been our best defender the whole he's been at Stanford."

In other words, it's probably no coincidence that last year's national Player of the Year and Pacific's leading scorer Balazs "Eddie" Erdelyi scored his only two goals when Watkins was out of the contest.

Stanford meets St. Francis Brooklyn in Sunday's third-place match at 1 p.m. The Tigers and USC will meet for the national title at 3 p.m.

"I'm proud of the guys for doing a great job," Vargas said. "We weren't getting any exclusions. We had to score natural goals, which we did."

Stanford converted three of its seven power plays while Pacific was seven of 12. Bowen also fouled out of the game in the final minute.

The Cardinal loses three players to graduation: Watkins, Sacred Heart Prep grad Paul Rudolph, who scored a goal to make it 7-7 with 2:29 left in the third quarter, and Menlo School grad Scott Platshon, the backup goalie.

The top three scorers and the starting goalie each return next season but that was of little solace to Vargas.

"You can say we have a young team but we're not looking to the future," Vargas said. We're looking at right now. Our freshmen and sophomores are expected to make decisions like juniors and seniors. They are smart kids."

The Cardinal missed a couple of shots in the final minutes, each glazing the crossbar on its way out of bounds. The final one came with three seconds left.

"We made some bad decisions, passes we should not have made," Vargas said. "We're going to come and compete tomorrow and get it done."


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