Sports

Stanford women take care of Sun Devils in MPSF water polo

 

The second-ranked Stanford women's water polo team ends its regular season with five matches, the next four at home and the finale at California. The NCAA championships are scheduled for Stanford, beginning May 8.

The Cardinal will have to travel outside the Bay Area one more time; for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament in Tempe at the end of April.

Stanford survived its trip to Arizona State, beating the eighth-ranked Sun Devils, 10-4, in a MPSF contest Saturday. It was a nice day to be in the pool, with temperatures nearing triple digits.

Kiley Neushul scored three times for the Cardinal (2-0 MPSF, 16-1 overall), which never trailed in the contest. The Canadian connection of Gurpreet Sohi and Anna Yelizarova each added two goals.

"Arizona State did some things we haven't seen before," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "They made us be resourceful."

Sohi, who looks even tinier than 5-6 when standing between 6-foot-1 Katie Dudley and 5-11 Ashley Grossman, scored the game's first goal with a tremendous individual effort.

Sohi made a steal, drove toward the goal, took her time and delivered the score with just over a minute gone.

"She's such an overachiever and feisty," Tanner said. "She has a wide range of skills."

Sohi, who also scored near the end of the first half, plays as big as her teammates. She's active on defense and is usually in the right place at the right time.

"She has been on teams who have relied on her for scoring, for the counter attack and even for defense," Tanner said. "She's had to develop all those skills."

Yelizarova returned to action after missing the 10 previous matches. She scored both of her goals within 73 seconds of each other early in the second period.

Stanford continually disrupted the Sun Devils' offense and survived several exclusions thanks to a closely-knit defense.

"We work a lot on transition defense," Tanner said. "That's critical and a big part of what these guys do well. It starts with great 1-on-1 defense and when they are all doing their job, it looks cohesive."

UCLA handed Stanford its only loss of the season last year and owns the lone victory over the Cardinal this season. Last year, Stanford used that loss to propel itself to the national title.

This year, says Tanner, it's a little different.

"Last year UCLA just smashed us," he said. "They really beat us. This year it has been pretty even. We've gone to overtime with them in a hard-fought, back-and-forth game. We went overtime with USC and had a tough game with Cal. That's great competition for all the teams."

Freshman Jordan Raney had an interesting afternoon. Sharing two-meter defense duties, she earned a field block the hard way, with the ball hitting her in the head.

No worries, though, she also made a great pass that led to Neushul's first goal in the second period and then scored a goal in the third.

"This group is no-nonsense and disciplined," Tanner said. "They do a great job in the weight room and with conditioning. They take pride in doing the little things well."

Stanford hosts UC Davis in a nonconference match Sunday at 1 p.m. before finishing the conference season with four games in 12 days.

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