Stanford grads Villa, Mendoza still leading
their respective USA national teams
Brenda Villa and Jessica Mendoza have a lot more in common than merely sharing the name "Stanford University" on their diplomas.
Both are world-class athletes who have played for Olympic gold medals in at least two Olympics, both serve as team captains of their respective United States national teams and both are among the oldest players on their respective rosters.
On Wednsday, Villa and Mendoza also produced some big offensive numbers to help the U.S. women's national water polo team (Villa) and the U.S. national softball team (Mendoza) win in international competition.
Villa scored three goals to lead the Americans to a 12-9 victory over Russia in the final round of pool play at the FINA World League Super Final in La Jolla.
Mendoza had three hits and drove in four runs as the U.S. beat Canada, 16-1, in the quarterfinals of the ISF World Championships in Caracas, Venezuela.
Villa was hoping to help again when the U.S. played its quarterfinal match with Canada on Thursday, Mendoza and the U.S. softball team took on Japan in the semifinals of the World Championships.
The USA-Japan softball contest has been highly anticipated since the beginning of the World Championships. The U.S. holds the World Championship series record at 12-2 with the last loss during the 2006 semifinal game. For complete coverage of the ISF World Championship, visit USA softball.
"Our goal is to get better every game and we did that," Villa said after the victory over Russia. "Today our defense held."
The game was tied at 8-all in fourth period before two quick goals gave the Americans the lead for good.
"It was a disappointing first half and we talked about that at the break," U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said. "In the second half we were willing to put in the work."
Stanford sophomore Annika Dries has been turning some heads with her play in the middle.
"We've had a great legacy of great centers here and it's nice to see 'Anka' come in, she's only 18, and fill some big shoes," Villa said. "It's nice having her around."
The USA reached Wednesday's match with an exciting 15-14 shootout victory over Australia on Tuesday. Stanford grad Lauren (Lolo) Silver put the finishing touches on the victory by scoring twice, including the winning goal.
American goalie Emily Feher made three saves during the shootout phase, allowing the U.S. to record the come-from-behind victory.
"The game flip-flopped back and forth right up to the final seconds," Feher said. "I got lit up a few times but I was able to pull off a couple of bug stops to help my team win."
Stanford junior Melissa Seidemann also scored a goal in the shootout as the U.S. rallied after Australia took the lead at 12-11 with 48 seconds remaining to play in regulation.
Kami Craig scored with nine seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 12 and send it to a shootout. Seidemann's goal put the U.S. up, 14-13, and after the Aussies tied it again, Silver delivered the game winner.
In softball, the Canada-U.S. showdown was a rematch of last year's world championship title contest.
"It will be a tough game," said Villa. "They'll show up to play. We have to continue to get better."
The American softball team will also have its hands full with Japan, which leads the tournament in pitching. Of course, no one can touch the U.S. in terms of offense.
Stanford grad Alissa Haber set a tournament record for RBI with her bases-loaded double in the first inning of the U.S. victory over the Canadians. Mendoza is the former record holder.
Overall Haber has 16 RBI to go with a tournament-leading .650 batting average (down from .715 two days ago), 11 runs and 13 hits. She also leads with seven doubles.
"I take pride in my pre-game batting practice. I get the opportunity to hit every type of pitch and that helps me get ready to face all types of pitchers," Haber said. "My mindset is to no matter what, make contact. I try to scout the pitchers before and get their strengths and weaknesses then put a plan together that meshes their strengths and weaknesses and my own. Then, of course, I always try to relax and have fun!"
There's something else in common between Villa and Mendoza: they are both mentoring prodigies who also happen to be Stanford products.