Stanford women are preseason pick for MPSF polo title


Stanford collected 32 points and three first-place votes to top the 2016 MPSF Women's Water Polo Coaches' Poll, which was released by the conference Thursday.

USC was tabbed second with 31 points and three first-place votes while UCLA was third with 29 points and one first-place vote. California, Arizona State, San Jose State and CSU Bakersfield rounded out the preseason picks.

The Cardinal won 25 games -- reaching that level for the ninth consecutive season in 2015 -- and made history by becoming the first host institution to win the NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship. The national crown was the fifth in program history and the Cardinal's fourth in the past five seasons.

Stanford's NCAA title capped a perfect 14-0 mark at Avery Aquatic Center and extended its home winning streak to 29 games. The Cardinal has not lost an MPSF game since 2009, a stretch of 39 straight regular-season conference outings.

Stanford enters 2016 with All-America honorable mention Jamie Neushul and MPSF Newcomer of the Year Jordan Raney back in the fold alongside fellow 20-goal scorers Dani Jackovich, Gurpreet Sohi, Anna Yelizarova and Katie Dudley. Stanford had an early start to building a cohesive unit heading into this season. Over the summer, the Cardinal represented the United States at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.

Stanford will go in search of its third straight national championship without some key pieces from last season's squad, including its three first-team All-Americans from a season ago. Graduated seniors Kiley Neushul, the 2015 Cutino Award winner, and Ashley Grossman are with the USA Senior Women's National Team as it prepares for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

That duo is joined by ACWPC Player of the Year Maggie Steffens, who is taking a year off from Stanford to go in search of her second Olympic gold medal. Makenzie Fischer, a would-be freshman on The Farm, is deferring a year to join the Cardinal contingent on Team USA and senior goalkeeper Gabby Stone is also training with Team USA.

The Cardinal opens its season at the Lou Strong Memorial at San Jose State Jan. 16-17.

Track and field

The preseason indoor track and field rankings were released this week and Stanford holds the No. 13 spots in both USTFCCCA men's and women's coaches' polls.

The Cardinal women are coming off an eighth-place finish at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships and return three -- Claudia Saunders (800 meters), Elise Cranny (3,000), and Aisling Cuffe (5,000) -- who have finished second at an NCAA championship meet.

A fall in the distance medley relay conspired to prevent the Cardinal men from scoring at NCAA's last year, but Stanford comes in with a strong squad that includes two sub-4 milers (three if freshman Grant Fisher does not redshirt), seven who have broken 14 minutes in the 5,000 meters, two 50-foot triple jumpers, an 18-foot pole vaulter, and a heptathlete who holds the U.S. junior decathlon record.

Junior pole vaulter Dylan Duvio and sophomore heptathlete Harrison Williams are coming off third- and fourth-place finishes, respectively, at NCAA outdoors and are primed to contend indoors. The distance trio of Sean McGorty, and Jim and Joe Rosa, also could score. McGorty could make an impact in the mile, 3,000, 5,000, or DMR.

Darian Brooks is a three-time conference triple jump champ (Pac-12 outdoors twice, MPSF indoors last year) who is looking to make an impact nationally.

For the women, there may be an opportunity to break through in the 4x400 or the DMR, the event that has become a trademark for the Cardinal men and women. The two squads have combined for five NCAA titles in that event, most recently by the men in 2014.

The women's 4x400 squad could include school-record quartermiler Kristyn Williams, 2014 world junior relay gold medalist Olivia Baker, as well as Gaby Gayles and Michaela Crunkleton Wilson – the lineup that ran at NCAA outdoors last year.

The Cardinal opens the indoor season Jan. 16 at the UW Indoor Preview in Seattle. The NCAA's are March 11 in Birmingham, Alabama.

— Stanford Athletics

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