Stanford women win national 20-under polo title

Local club team successfully defends its championship by finishing with 6-0-1 record

The Stanford Water Polo Club captured its second straight title at the Women's 20-under National Championships on Thursday with a 10-8 victory over SET at at Cal State Bakersfield.

Stanford head coach Susan Ortwein was pleased with her squad's victory over its Long Beach-based opponent.

"It's always an honor to win any championship, but it's sweeter to win two in a row," Ortwein said. "This is a really well balanced team, and this was a great team effort."

Ortwein was thankful that the championship game wasn't as close as the first meeting between the teams, a 10-9 Stanford win in the quarterfinals.

This time, Stanford took a 7-6 lead after three quarters and increased it to 10-7 before SET scored in the final seconds.

"The team defense really helped out," Ortwein said. "Last year's experience (and title) definitely helped."

Kira Hillman of Stanford was named MVP of the tournament.

"She helped orchestrate our defense, along with Remy Champion, and I think she scored in every game," Ortwein said of Hillman.

Ortwein received her own honor -- being thrown into the pool.

"I had to drop off the kids at the restaurant and then go back and change," Ortwein said. "I wasn't very presentable."

Stanford benefitted from having nine players who helped bring the program last season's championship. Only three players from the squad will return to high school this fall.

Stanford and SET advanced after convincing wins on Thursday morning. Stanford defeated SoCal, 9-5, while SET polished off Diablo.

The championship game was a rematch of Wednesday's quarterfinal, which saw Menlo-Atherton High grad Kelly Eaton score three goals in the final 1 1/2 minutes as Stanford held on for a 10-9 victory.

Eaton also scored three goals in the championship match, two coming on penalty shots. Lizzie Rouleau added two goals in the finals.

Stanford also edged Santa Barbara Water Polo Club on Wednesday, 7-6, after tying Commerce, 10-10. Stanford opened the national championships with a 21-3 win over Houston, followed by an 11-4 victory over CHAWP.

"We're just really balanced," Ortwein said of why her team took a 5-0-1 record into the finals. "In the 9-5 win over SoCal, we had seven people score. In the 7-6 win over Santa Barbara, we had six people score. I think the fewest number of scorers we've had was four."

In the rout of Houston, Stanford had 10 players score, including Champion with five. Against CHAWP, seven players produced 11 goals.

"We've also had great two-meter defense," Ortwein explained, "and our depth has been important, especially in such a long tournament like this."

In addition to Eaton, a sophomore at Stanford, and Champion, Stanford's roster includes Megan Burmeister, Hillman, Alex Koran, Pallavi Menon, Elise Ponce, Rouleau, Camy Sullivan, Heather West, Tanya Wilcox, Cassie Wyckoff and Lauren Wyckoff.

Despite defending their title, Stanford and her players won't have much time to celebrate. Many of them will be back in the pool on Friday for the Senior National Championships in Bakersfield.

Stanford's roster for that includes Burmeister, Champion, Eaton, Jackie Gauthier, Molly Hayes, Hillman, Koran, Menon, Rouleau, Sullivan, West, Wilcox and Cassie Wyckoff.

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