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May 18, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005
NCAA WATER POLO

Stanford women just miss again Stanford women just miss again (May 18, 2005)

Cardinal comes up a goal short of upsetting UCLA in the championship match of the national finals

by Rick Eymer

So tantalizingly close and yet the ultimate prize was still just out of reach after 28 agonizing, thrilling minutes of play.

Stanford suffered yet another one-goal loss to UCLA in the final game of the year, this time dropping a 3-2 decision on Sunday in the NCAA title game at Michigan on Sunday.

Stanford and UCLA have met for the NCAA championship in four of the past five years. In those four meetings combined, Stanford has outscored the Bruins by a 17-16 margin.

That's how close those two powerhouses are in ability, even though the Bruins have won three of those meetings.

Stanford won the 2002 title with an 8-4 win over UCLA, but have lost three one-goal decisions (5-4 in 2001, 4-3 in 2003 and this year) in the championship contest.

"I would never have expected this kind of game," UCLA coach Adam Krikorian said. "I thought we'd score more than three but I also thought they would put in more than two goals. It was a physical game and the refs let us play."

Stanford (22-7) lost to the Bruins for the fourth time this season, and the third time by two goals or less.

The Cardinal had a chance to tie the game when UCLA's Molly Cahill received her third ejection and gave Stanford a 6-5 situation in the last possession of regulation. Krista Kunkel stole the ball with 17 seconds remaining and the Bruins were able to hang on.

Katie Hansen scored with 4:12 left in the game to pull Stanford within 3-2.

The Bruins scored twice in the first period and took a 2-0 halftime lead.

Hannah Luber scored early in the third period to put Stanford on the scoreboard, and the Cardinal held UCLA scoreless for two consecutive quarters - the first time that's happened to the Bruins since the 2004 MPSF tournament.

"There wasn't a whole lot of momentum or a lot of goals scored," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "It was just getting a few good possessions in a row. That was the only control that anyone had. I felt we didn't have enough sustained possessions. We had way too many turnovers."

Stanford, which did not have an Olympian on its roster for the first time, returns everybody except seniors Hannah Luber and Kelty Luber.

Hannah Luber and sophomore goalie Meridith McColl, who recorded eight of her 27 saves in the final contest, earned first team all-tournament honors, while sophomore Christina Hewko was named to the second team.

"Overall UCLA had more quality opportunities and Meridith was stellar in keeping us in it," Tanner said. "I felt like those two-goal leads were insurmountable. If it's 7-5 it's no big deal but 3-1 it just felt like a real battle. Both schools pride themselves on playing team defense. That shows up in five-on-six situations. Combined we were 1-11, with them 1-for-6. That was the difference in the game."

UCLA needed a late goal to beat Hawaii, 7-6, in the semifinals.

Stanford earned the spot in the championship match with a 5-4 victory over USC, its second win over the Women of Troy in as many meetings.

USC took a 2-0 lead and was up 3-2 at halftime. Stanford rallied to tie the score when Hansen took a pass from Hannah Luber and sunk the ball past USC goalkeeper Sarah Mix with 5:11 left in the third quarter. Alison Gregorka's steal set up the tying goal.

Nancy El-Sakkary gave the Cardinal a 4-3 lead entering the final period.

Luber scored her second goal of the game early in the second quarter and Stanford held on for the win.

Luber added three goals in Stanford's 7-2 win over Michigan in the first round.


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