Stanford seniors Kim Krueger and Amber Oland stepped up big when their women's water polo teammates needed them Saturday, leading to an 8-4 victory over USC in the national semifinals of the NCAA championship in Ann Arbor.
The top-ranked and top-seeded Cardinal (27-1) meets Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament champion California for the national title Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Krueger scored three times, Oland recorded 10 saves and also scored a goal as Stanford beat the defending national champion Women of Troy for the fourth time this season, this one by the widest margin yet.
"We knew we had to play good defense," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "They have an incredible 6-on-5 offense and when we stopped the first three or four we knew we were in good shape. We built from there."
The Cardinal and Bears are meeting for the third time, with Stanford winning the previous two by a combined 18-10 score.
California has won five straight (and 14 of 15) since losing to Stanford, though, including a pair of victories over UCLA, which handed the Cardinal its only loss the year.
The Cardinal led USC, 3-1, at halftime. Krueger and freshman Kaley Dodson scored goals in the first four minutes of the second half to give Stanford some breathing room.
"Our offense was a little impatient," Tanner said. "We could have been a little better there at the beginning of the game."
Krueger scored in the first minute of each the first three periods as Stanford went on the attack from the start.
"It feels real good," said Krueger, who also had two assists. "We're right back where we want to be, in the championship game."
USC pulled within 6-4 early in the fourth period. Pallavi Menon scored on a power-play, taking a terrific pass from Krueger and firing it into the net at point blank range.
Dodson then made an important steal and Oland took advantage of the USC goalkeeper, who left the net open for a few seconds, and scored with a shot that traveled the length of the pool. It was her second goal of the season.
"Usually I'm supposed to dump the ball off to the goalie but I saw her leave the post and decided to shot the ball as close to the goal as possible and it happened to go in."
Stanford's depth played an important role in Saturday's 4-0 victory over visiting Illinois-Chicago in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Freshman Kristie Ahn is nursing a sore ankle and won't play this weekend. Sophomore Stacey Tan suffered a slight injury during warm-ups and had to be scratched.
That didn't seem to bother the second-ranked and top-seeded Cardinal (24-0), which merely turned to veterans Carolyn McVeigh and Jennifer Yen. McVeigh won her match and Yen was on the verge of winning her match when fellow senior Hilary Barte clinched the victory at the top of the ladder.
Nicole Gibbs also won her singles match following a Stanford win in doubles.
The Cardinal meets Pepperdine at 11 a.m. Sunday in the second round.
Freshman Daniel Ho won in his college dual-meet debut and No. 7 Stanford advanced to the Round of 16 after beating visiting Washington, 4-1, Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Senior Alex Clayton clinched the match at No. 3 singles for Stanford (20-5), which won its 12th straight. Clayton and freshman Jamin Ball clinched the doubles point.
The eighth-seeded Cardinal hosts ninth-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday at 6 p.m. The Aggies and Stanford have played six common opponents this season, with both teams beating Texas Tech, California, Nebraska and Tulsa and both teams losing to Baylor.
Stanford beat Washington, while Texas A&M lost to the Huskies.
Zach Jones had three hits and drove in the eventual winning run as Stanford rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat host Oregon, 9-8, Saturday and even their Pac-10 series at one apiece.
The Cardinal (10-10, 28-17) concludes the series with Ducks with a 1 p.m. game Sunday.
Oregon scored in each of the first five innings to take an 8-1 lead. A.J. Talt and winning pitcher Chris Reed (4-2) gave the Cardinal the chance to recover by throwing a combined five innings of no-hit relief.
Danny Diekroeger hit a sacrifice fly and Lonnie Kauppila drove in two with a double to make it 8-4 after six innings.
Diekroeger was also in the middle of a four-run rally in the seventh. He singled home the tying run after Stephen Piscotty doubled home a pair of runs and Brian Ragira tripled home another.
Dave Guiliani and Tyler Gaffney each added two hits for the Cardinal. Austin Wilson had is 12-game hitting streak snapped after going 0-for-4.
A five-hour rain delay dampened Stanford's bid for an NCAA victory Saturday. Host Florida made the better of the situation, beating the Cardinal, 13-11, in the first round.
It was 81 degrees and sunny when the contest finally got under way, and the fourth-ranked Gators took the early advantage, scoring the game's first four goals.
Lauren Schmidt led seventh-ranked Stanford with three goals and Leslie Foard added two for the Cardinal (16-3), which completed its best season in program history.
Stanford rallied to take an 8-7 lead when Foard scored with 23:28 to play. It was tied at 10 after Sarah Flynn scored her 49th goal of the year but Florida held on down the stretch.
Ashley Hansen and Sarah Hassman each had two hits, including a double, but Stanford dropped its regular season finale, 4-1, to host Arizona State on Saturday.
The top-ranked Sun Devils (17-4, 50-6) won the Pac-10 championship and will likely earn the top overall seed for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
The 11th-ranked Cardinal (10-11, 38-15) finished fifth in the conference and will await word on its fate for next weekend's regional play.
The NCAA selection show will be broadcast on ESPNU at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Michelle Prong drove in Stanford's only run.
Track and field
Whitney Liehr won the triple jump title at the Pac-10 championships in Tucson to highlight the Stanford women's efforts Saturday.
The Cardinal finished fifth. Oregon won the team title.
Freshman Kori Carter was third in the 400 hurdles and sixth in the 100 hurdles. Senior Brittni Dixon-Smith reached the finals in both the 100 and 200.
On the men's side, sophomore Geoffrey Tabor captured the conference title in the discus throw. Junior Amaechi Morton was third in the 400 hurdles and seventh in the 110 hurdles.
Chris Derrick finished third in the 5,000 with a time of 13:57.88. Elliott Heath, Miles Unterreiner and Jake Riley placed fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.