Stanford men end water polo season on a winning note


Bret Bonanni's eight-goal outburst spearheaded a dominant performance for Stanford as the second-seeded Cardinal earned its second consecutive third-place finish at the NCAA men's water polo tournament with a 20-11 victory over tournament host and No. 4 seed UC San Diego on Sunday in La Jolla.

Bonnani combined with fellow All-Americans Alex Bowen (4) and BJ Churnside (3) for 15 goals as the Cardinal (26-4) scored at least 20 goals for the 11th time in recording the program's highest win total (27) since 1994.

Stanford led 4-2 after one, 5-4 early in the second, and then put the game out of reach with a 10-2 run over the next 13:30.

Bonanni led off the spurt with his first off an assist from Cody Smith at 5:32 in the second. He assisted a Churnside score moments later (4:57) before Smith got on the board at 4:34. Bonanni put home two more in the period, an even-strength score at 3:40 and a power-play goal at 2:29, and the Cardinal led 10-5 at the break.

"Coming up a goal short yesterday was disappointing," Cardinal coach John Vargas said. "I'm proud that these guys came back and were ready to play today and compete."

Bonanni was one shy of the single-game record in NCAA tournament history. His combined 11 goals are the most in NCAA championship history since 1994.

Bonanni had the second-highest total in Stanford history behind James Bergeson's 12 in 1981.

"We want to win. That's really on our minds," Bonanni said. "It starts on Monday. We want to win."

Drew Holland played three quarters in the cage before giving way to Oliver Lewis in the fourth and made 12 saves. Holland finished his sophomore season with 269 stops and will continue his assault on the Stanford record books next season along with Bonanni.

Holland's 480 career saves place him within striking distance of the Cardinal's top three of Chris Aguilera (744), Larry Bercutt (727) and Nick Ellis (714).

Bonanni finished his junior campaign with 96 goals, just one shy of the single-season school-record 97 he tallied a year ago. He will enter his senior season on The Farm with 266 career scores, 66 fewer than Tony Azevedo's Stanford record (332). Bonanni is the only Cardinal in history to post multiple 90-goal seasons.

The game marked the final one in the careers of seniors Conner Cleary, Nick Hoversten and Bowen.

Bowen finished with 253 career goals, third all-time at Stanford. Hoversten scored 60 times and Cleary 45.

"It's been one heck of a ride," Bowen said. "I've met the best friends of my life. I wouldn't make a run at the title with any other team. We came up short but I still wouldn't trade it."

Overall, the Cardinal posted one of the best offensive seasons in school history, scoring 453 times (15.1 per game). Last season with the only time in the past decade Stanford totaled more than 400 goals or averaged greater than 12 per contest.

UCLA beat USC, 9-8, in the title match.

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