Senior Kelsey Suggs scored the game-winner, Maggie Steffens scored twice and the top-ranked Stanford women's water polo team edged UCLA, 6-5, in the championship game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, earning the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Stanford returns to USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center for the finals that begin May 9. The Cardinal is expected to earn the draw's top seed when the 10-team field is announced Monday.
Stanford cashed in on three 6-on-5 situations and converted a penalty shot, the latter coming from Steffens with 2:05 remaining in the third period to knot things up at 5-5. Suggs scored the winner on a power play with 3:55 remaining in the contest, firing past Bruins goalie Sami Hill.
The Cardinal defense suffocated the Bruins, highlighted by denying a UCLA 6-on-5 advantage in the final 15 seconds.
Annika Dries sparked the comeback, battling through defenders in the hole to power home a backhand with 4:53 left in the third period.
UCLA held leads of 2-1, 3-2 and 5-3 during the contest, which included a score from Menlo-Atherton grad Becca Dorst.
Kaley Dodson and Jamie Neushul each scored to help keep the match close.
Tommy Edman hit a three-run homer in support of John Hochstatter's second career complete game effort as Stanford beat visiting California, 4-1, before 2,447 fans Sunday in a Pac-12 Conference contest.
The Cardinal (7-11, 18-18) hosts Cal in the final game of the series on Monday night at 6 p.m., to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
"I think if we take this series tomorrow it would be big for us," said Hochstatter. "I think with this team and how we're playing we can keep it going from here."
Hochstatter (6-1) stayed away from hard contact by mixing speeds in the zone. He struck out three and walked only one, while the Cardinal defense played flawlessly behind him.
Stanford did not commit an error for fourth time in the past six games. The Cardinal owns a Pac-12 best .990 fielding percentage in conference games.
Edman provided Hochstatter with all the support he needed by blasting a first-pitch fastball over the left field wall, breaking a 1-1 tie. It was Edman's first career long ball and came with runners on the corners.
"I was just looking for something to hit hard," said Edman, who had two hits. "Luckily I got a pitch up that I could drive and I put a good swing on it."
Edman extended his hitting streak to seven games. He's hitting .455 (10-22) over that span.
Danny Diekroeger, Zach Hoffpauir and Brant Whiting each added two hits for the Cardinal, which produced 11 on the day. Stanford has recorded double-digit hits in three of the past four games.
Hochstatter retired the final 13 batters in succession as Cal managed to get only two runners to second base after the first inning. He lowered his team-best ERA to 1.93.
No. 3 Stanford (22-8) travels to Chicago for an NCAA play-in match against No. 6 Erskine College on Tuesday at Gentile Arena.
Should the Cardinal advance, it would have a rematch with BYU, which ended Stanford's 13-match winning streak in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament championship match Saturday.
The Cougars (21-8) are seeded second and plays Thursday at 4 p. m. (PT) against the Cardinal-Erskine winner.
Stanford is led by senior two-time first team All-American Brian Cook, who is averaging 3.81 kills and 4.30 points per set while hitting .353.
In just its second season of competition, Erskine (21-6) earned an automatic berth by sweeping Mount Olive in the Conference Carolinas tournament championship NCAA play-in matches are not a part of the NCAA Championships. The Cardinal would need to defeat Erskine on Tuesday to appear in its first NCAA tournament since 2010, when it brought home the program's second national title.
Host Loyola University Chicago earned the No. 1 overall seed and will play the winner between No. 4 seed Lewis, which received an at-large berth, and No. 5 seed Penn State, which won the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association to garner an automatic bid.
Tickets are available online through www.loyolaramblers.com or by calling the Loyola ticket office at (773) 508-WOLF (9653).
Stanford's top pairing of Kristie Ahn and Carol Zhao came away with a runner-up doubles finish on Sunday at the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai.
Ahn and Zhao dropped a 6-3, 6-3 decision to USC's Kaitlyn Christian and Giuliana Olmos in the doubles title match.
The tournament's top seed and nation's ninth-ranked tandem, Ahn and Zhao were looking to become the first Cardinal duo to claim the Pac-12 title since Alice Barnes and Anne Yelsey went back-to-back in 2005-06.
Stanford now shifts its focus to the postseason, as the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Stanford rallied late but it was not enough to overcome an early deficit Sunday and the Cardinal fell to top-ranked Oregon, 7-2, in the Pac-12 series finale.
The Cardinal (27-21, 3-15 Pac-12) was held hitless through the first five innings but broke through in the sixth and seventh innings with a series of sustained offense.
Kayla Bonstrom continued to pace Stanford offensively, going 1-for-4 with two RBI. She finished the Oregon series 5-for-10 with three doubles, two RBI and a .800 slugging-percentage.
Kylie Sorenson, Hanna Winter, Kaitlin Schaberg and Tylyn Wells recorded a hit apiece.
Wells (2-3) got the start in the circle for the Cardinal and allowed four runs on three hits and four walks in 2.0 innings.
Madi Schreyer came in as relief in fourth inning and finished the game strong, allowing one run on three hits and two walks, and striking out five.
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