Julia Hermann finally got to play in a water polo match that mattered in her home pool and that meant everything to her.
Stanford's redshirt sophomore goalkeeper played sparingly as a freshman and was then forced to take a year off because of a knee injury.
The Cardinal (7-1) beat Loyola Marymount, 17-6, earlier in the day. Michigan, with Gunn grad Caroline Anderson scoring in three of four games, finished third in the tournament with a 6-2 victory over UC Irvine.
"It was a big weekend for me," Hermann said. "I had fun. The games were at home and it's been a long time for me. Getting back into this pool means a lot."
Stanford, which takes a two-week break before heading to UC Davis on Feb. 21 for a pair of nonconference games, will be relying on Hermann this year with All-American Gabby Stone taking the year off to compete with the United States women's national team.
With the Olympics less than a year away, Hermann had an inkling she might be counted upon to carry the load. She's as happy for Stone as she is for herself.
"I didn't know for sure, though with Gabby playing for the national team, I had an idea," Hermann said. "I completely support her in her pursuits. It is the Olympics. I'm just happy to be back in the pool."
Hermann, though not able to practice with her teammates, never felt like an outsider as the Cardinal won the NCAA title last May.
"Injuries are a part of sports," she said. "It's part of being on a team. I always felt a part of it no matter what. I had to do the work to get back. Yeah, it was hard, but what Stanford offers, the support is there in terms of getting back and being ready."
Hermann also credited Cardinal associate head coach Susan Ortwein, who was part of two national championship teams at UC Santa Barbara in the late 80s, for getting her ready for competition.
"She trains with us," Hermann said. "It's nice to have her. There's always going to be that pressure within any sport you play and you have to be ready. The kind of people who come here want to put in the work whether it's athletics or academics. They've all dealt with pressure."
The Bears handed Stanford its first loss at home in nearly four years, a span of 32 matches, though that didn't seem to bother the Cardinal.
"It's early and Cal is a great opponent," Hermann said. "They have great shooters and they came out on top because they played well."
A sentiment shared by Stanford coach John Tanner.
"We're capable of playing at an extremely high level and we're capable of long stretches where we struggle," he said. "We struggled on the offense side. We went 24 minutes without a goal. That's a long stretch. Cal lost a tough game earlier in the season and it looks like they really have things together. They were impressive and played sharp on defense."
Dani Jackovich scored to give the Cardinal a 1-0 lead at 5:12 of the first period. Stanford did not score again until Kat Klass connected with 5:03 remaining to play.
Until the title game, Cardinal players seemed to have their way with opponents, generating six hat tricks.
Hat tricks from Madison Berggren, Jamie Neushul and Anna Yelizarova propelled the Cardinal to an 11-goal victory over the Lions.
Berggren tallied her first career three-score game with goals in each of the first, second and third quarters while Neushul racked up her fourth of the season. Klass scored a team-leading nine goals at the tournament.