Kiley Neushul scored two of her three goals in the fourth quarter to bring the top-ranked Stanford women's water polo team within one, but a late chance on the Cardinal's last possession hit off the crossbar and No. 4 California earned an 8-7 upset victory in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament at Arizona State on Saturday.
Stanford got a clean look at the net with 16 seconds remaining, with Jamie Neushul getting open. Her lob hit off the crossbar, and two other Cardinal players had chances to tie the game before the Golden Bears gained control and ran out the clock.
The Cardinal (23-2) saw its 10-game winning streak end as Cal beat Stanford for the first time since 2000.
UCLA and the Bears will play for the MPSF's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, which is hosted by Stanford this year.
The Cardinal and USC will meet for third place Sunday, though the top four teams from the MPSF will likely advance to the national quarterfinals.
Trailing 8-5 with five minutes left, Neushul put home her second of the day on Stanford's 11th 6-on-5 opportunity.
Her shot hit the crossbar and came straight down. Goalkeeper Madeline Trabucco attempted to swipe the ball forward, but the official ruled the goal was good at 4:58.
With 3:06 to go there was another Cal exclusion. Neushul was left alone in the middle and utilized a quick shot after the restart to bring the Cardinal within one, 8-7.
Trabucco made a pair of big saves on attempts from Ashley Grossman a minute apart, staying in the center of the cage with her palm up to deflect a shot far side at 2:05 and then coming back to stop one near side on Stanford's next possession at 1:02.
Stanford was done in largely by its 6-on-5 opportunities, converting just five of its 12 in the match while Cal went 1-of-4.
The Golden Bears jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first quarter, but the Cardinal got back into it with a pair of second-quarter scores from Maggie Steffens and Yelizarova.
Steffens scored her first of three with 6:12 on the clock following an exclusion drawn by Grossman.
Kiley Neushul fed Steffens right in front and the junior pounded it into the cage from point-blank range.
At 3:27, Yelizarova employed her patented no-look shot to make the score 4-3. Looking across the pool she drew Trabucco's eyes away from her, and used a strong right arm to rip in her attempt through a narrow lane with virtually no shoulder turn.
Cal led, 5-3, at halftime but Stanford again pulled within one on a Steffens' power-play goal.
The top-ranked Stanford lightweight team was impressive on the first day of the WIRA Championships, winning all three of its races to reach the finals.
"We went out there with a really good attitude and were ready to row our own race," said freshman coxswain Shea Cours, who guided both the novice and 2V8 boats to victory on Saturday.
The novice eight boat featured eight freshman and senior walk-on Amanda So. It was the first time the nine individuals have raced together in competition and just the second day they have been together. Each of the nine have seen action in either the varsity eight or 2V8 this season.
Racing against five openweight squads, the novice eight sputtered at the start but quickly gathered itself to take the lead by the 250-meter mark.
A strong effort pushed them further ahead by the midway point of the race and coming into the final 500 meters they had opened up several lengths of open water.
Orange Coast made a furious push at the end to finish within eight seconds of the Cardinal, but the race was never in doubt for the young Stanford squad.
The Cardinal novice eight advanced to the finals with a first place finish. They will race at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Next was the 2V8, which featured six of the individuals who competed in the novice eight earlier in the day.
Even though the group got off to another slow start they did not let up. Sacramento State was in the lead off the line, but by the 500-meter mark Stanford had taken a three-seat lead.
By the halfway point they had extended the lead to a boat length and maintained the advantage through the finish. Stanford finished in 7:21.7 to beat out Sacramento State and will race in the finals tomorrow at 11:10 a.m.
"We are super excited to be going to the finals," said Cours. "The novice boat should be a lot of fun because it will feature the teams that all won the heats and should be a good race. The JV will be the same teams as today."
The varsity eight the early lead early and was up five seats on Sacramento State, which was in a battle Seattle and San Diego State.
The Cardinal continued to push forward with a strong middle half of the race. Stanford crossed the line in 7:05.1, nearly six seconds in front of Sacramento State.
"We did a good job of handling the change in wind directions and not let it affect our race," said sophomore Christine Cavallo.
Stanford's top eight is still undefeated on the year, having won all six of its races. The Cardinal will look to continue its hot start in the final tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
A strong start by Stanford was not quite enough to withstand consistent offensive pressure by No. 19/16 Arizona as the visiting Cardinal fell 10-2 in six innings in Tucson.
Stanford (16-31, 1-16 Pac-12) kept pace with the Wildcats (36-12, 11-6 Pac-12) through the first five innings but was ultimately undone by five extra-base hits by Arizona that produced six runs.
Despite the defeat, there were plenty of quality contributions by multiple Cardinal players. Kylie Sorenson (4-9) got the start in the circle and did well to keep the Cardinal within striking distance early. She held the Wildcats to six runs on nine hits and two walks with a strikeout in 4.1 innings.
Erin Ashby hit her fifth home run of the season a solo shot in the top of the second inning and Bessie Noll contributed two hits.