The question of USC or Stanford will be asked many times during the 2014 women's water polo season, and it won't get any easier to answer all the way through to the NCAA Championship Tournament in May.
This week, the MPSF released its preseason coaches poll, and the result demonstrated the uncertainty in choosing between the 2013 national championship game participants as the Trojans edged the Cardinal for the top spot by a single point, finishing with four first-place votes and 34 points to three first-place votes and 33 points for Stanford.
UCLA was third with 26 points, followed by California (20), Arizona State (16), San Jose State (12) and CSU Bakersfield (six).
Stanford opens the 2014 season this Saturday at the California Speedo Cup.
Under the tutelage of head coach John Tanner in his 17th year at the helm, the Cardinal returns a trio of ACWPC All-Americans in senior two-meter Annika Dries (35 goals in 2013), drivers Maggie Steffens (60 goals), Kaley Dodson (31 goals) along with first-team All-MPSF driver Kiley Neushul (50 goals).
Also returning for the Cardinal are sophomore driver Anna Yelizarova (46 goals), senior driver Kaitlyn Lo (26 goals), and junior two-meter Ashley Grossman (20 goals), who missed the first half of 2013 due to injury.
Stanford finished last season 29-3 and this year will go for its third NCAA title in four seasons. The Cardinal was denied a three-peat last year as USC captured a 10-9 quadruple overtime win in the NCAA Championship game at Harvard.