Shannon Cleary posted her third career hat trick, four of her teammates had two-score efforts and the second-ranked Stanford women's water polo team scored the first seven goals en route to beating No. 7 UC Santa Barbara, 12-5, in an NCAA quarterfinal match at UCLA on Friday.
The Cardinal (22-5) advances to Saturday's semifinals against host and third-seeded UCLA at 5:15 p.m.
"They are a skilled team and we can clearly see that," Cleary said of the Bruins, with whom Stanford has split two meetings on the year. "We have done a lot of preparation. We have done all that we can do to prepare to play to our ability. I'm just looking forward to playing them."
Cleary ignited the early run, scoring the first goal with a shot to the far post. Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Freshman of the Year Kat Klass scored a nearly identical goal. Senior Gurpeet Sohi scored two straight and Stanford maintained control the rest of the way.
"We knew to be successful we would have to be really mobile, especially on defense, and I was really excited about how well we came out," Stanford's Director of Women's Water Polo John Tanner said. "I felt Shannon, as usual, was determined, relentless and attacking and got herself in position and then did a great job finishing when she had those chances. She epitomizes our work ethic and the movement we needed."
Jamie Neushul and Madison Berggren each recorded an assist on Sohi's goal before Dani Jackovich went to her backhand to help keep the Cardinal on a roll.
Julia Hermann was stout in the cage, limiting the Gauchos to five goals on 27 shots. She made 12 saves and is averaging more than 11 over her last three games. With 225 stops this season, only Amber Oland (239 in 2008) and Meridith McColl (226 in 2006) have more for the Cardinal since 2001.
Neushul, Cassidy Papa and Jordan Raney each had three assists while Berggren added three steals to go along with her two goals.
Cleary's offensive output puts her at 21 goals this season and the Cardinal now boasts nine players with 20 or more goals for the second consecutive year. Prior to last season, that hadn't happened at Stanford since 2007.