Dries rises to the occasion as Cardinal wins NCAA water polo title

Senior Annika Dries scored three times, including the go-ahead goal midway through the fourth quarter and Stanford went on to beat UCLA, 9-5, to win the NCAA women's water polo championship on Sunday at USC.

Ashley Grossman and Kaley Dodson each scored twice for top-ranked Stanford (25-1), which scored seven consecutive goals after falling behind, 5-2, with 19 seconds left in the first half.

"That was awesome," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "These guys were sensational. This championship game, in my mind, started in February with a loss to UCLA. We owe them a lot for forcing us to get better."

Stanford goalie Gabby Stone and the Cardinal defense came up big in the second half. Stone, who made three saves, recorded one huge save that stopped a Bruins' power-play opportunity.

"Seeing key people step up in those defensive moments was inspiring," Dries said. "We had full confidence that whoever was in there was going to get the job done."

Dries, named the tournament MVP, scored from the two-meter slot at the 4:52 mark of the third quarter and Ashley Grossman scored a beautiful goal on the power play with two seconds left to tie the game entering the final period.

"I remember thinking, going into the final period tied, there were eight minutes of water polo left and I better leave it all in the pool," Dodson said. "Nothing was going to stop us, that's for sure."

Stanford's Maggie Steffens and Kelsey Suggs were moving the ball quickly just before Steffens found Grossman, who delivered with her backhand.

"Our mindset the entire game was defense," Dries said. "I remember one 5-on-6 spot when Maggie flew in to get a block. Those types of plays not only prevent a score but gives our offense momentum."

Steffens and Kiley Neushul joined Dries on the all-tournament team as the Cardinal won its third national title in four years. Menlo-Atherton grad Becca Dorst, who plays for UCLA, also was named to the all-tournament team.

"The story of this team is they have been comprehensively unified," Tanner said. "We've had an incredible weekend down here. I couldn't be prouder of our seniors."

Grossman gave Stanford the early lead with a goal just under three minutes into the contest. The Cardinal later missed a penalty shot.

The Bruins tied the score with a lob into the net with three minutes left in the first period and took the lead with 1:28 remaining.

The Bruins added a goal in the first minute of the second period when Stone came out of the net after a loose ball and India Forster was able to slap it past her for the goal.

Dodson, who was also came up with several critical defensive plays in the final period, scored with 5:07 left in the first half but UCLA responded with a goal 21 seconds later.

"Our team has been cohesive this year," Dodson said. "Defense has been our mentality the whole way through the season. It certainly served us well this game and I'm proud of it."

Kodi Hill gave the Bruins a 5-2 lead when she scored on a spectacular long throw that just beat the shot clock with 19 seconds left.

Anna Yelizarova's power-play goal with one second left in the half brought the Cardinal within 5-3 at halftime.

Stanford outshot UCLA, 17-12, in the first half but the Bruins dominated play. They worked the ball inside more often and took quality shots. UCLA also played better defense.

UCLA goalie Sami Hill also showed why she was named a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino National Player of the Year award, recording several outstanding saves, including the penalty shot.

The national title also extended Stanford's NCAA record of winning at least one national championship for 38 consecutive school years.

— Palo Alto Online Sports


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