Incoming Castilleja freshman Abena Ofori-Nyako played a strong enough game in the net for the 14th-seeded Stanford Girls Club 14U A water polo team that her teammates could entertain the thought of an upset over a team that had been utterly dominant during the summer.
While Stanford eventually dropped the game, 7-5, to SB 805 A at Avery Aquatic Center on Friday, 14A coach Jessie Cima had nothing but praise for her team.
"We've played them a few times over the summer and they are a very good team, well-coached," Cima said. "They have always been good and it's always been a battle. For us to come out and play like we did, yes, that's a good game."
Stanford split its first four games of the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics, losing to teams seeded ahead of it and beating teams seeded below. They will be playing for 13th place at the platinum level and that's just fine with Cima.
"The girls achieved our main goals over the first two days," she said. "We're hoping to finish strong."
Ofori-Nyako played effectively despite returning from a recent sprained thumb. She showed no signs of being hesitant while knocking down several one-on-one shots from SB 805 A.
"She made some great saves," Cima said.
Stanford A went into halftime trailing, 4-2, and then exploded out of the gates in the third quarter, scoring three consecutive goals to take a 5-4 lead with 1:43 remaining to play in the third period.
The go-ahead goal deserves to be on highlight reel. It started with Ashley Penner firing a pinpoint pass across the net to Mia Wurster, who was in contact with the ball for roughly 0.000001 of a second or just enough to tip it to Ana Beatriz Mantellato Dias, who also one-timed it into the net. SB 805 was still trying to react to Penner's pass when the ball was already in the net.
SB 805 A, coached by Cathy Neushul, tied the score at 1:23 and then scored on successive counter attacks over the final 57 seconds of the third to take the lead.
Having Neushul walk the decks at Stanford's Avery pool was meaningful in that it recalled her most significant contributions to Stanford: Kiley and Jamie, both Olympic gold medalists who also led the Cardinal to several NCAA championships, one at Stanford when Kiley Neushul converted a penalty shot with a second remaining to play. A third Neushul, Ryanne, will be playing at Stanford in the fall.
Brienz Lang and Mantellato Diaz each scored twice for Stanford. Cara Mason scored the tying goal for Stanford, which plays at Los Altos at 11 a.m. Saturday against an opponent to be determined.
Penner scored five goals and Mantellato Diaz scored four in Stanford's 11-5 win over United on Friday morning. Rusha Bhat also scored.
The Stanford 14B team, coached by Megan Bordy, entered the tournament seeded 48th out of 48 teams but the team won't finish there. After dropping its first two games, the 14U B's have won three straight and will be playing for upper half finish at the gold level. They meet Praetorian at 8 a.m. Saturday morning at Valley Christian.
Stanford B downed Sleepy Hollow, 4-2; beat Northwest, 12-0; and toppled Utah Premier, 8-6.
In the 14U Classic Division, Menlo Park beat Lamorinda Brentwood, 10-1, and then topped South Valley 9-1 to improve to 2-2 in group play.
Menlo Park travels to Lynbrook for games at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. against Burlingame and Trojan, respectively, on Saturday.
Natalia Szczerba and Grace Imrisek each scored four goals as Stanford beat Shaq, 14-2, in its first game Friday. Vivian Golub, Megan Newby and Nina Albers each added two goals and Nyla Sharma took care of stopping the opposition, with help from her defense.
The 12s lost a heart-breaker in a shootout to Shore Aquatics, 6-6 (4-1) and will be playing Santa Cruz at Menlo-Atherton High on Saturday at 10 a.m.
No. 12 seed Stanford A fell in its first two games Friday, 12-4 to SoCal Black A and 9-3 to Rose Bowl A. They came back to beat Newport Beach, 11-7, assuring themselves of at least a 12th-place finish and can finish as high as fifth at the platinum level. The A team meets Diablo Alliance A at 10 a.m. at Stanford Avery on Saturday.
Stanford B, coached by Amy Chinn and Susan Cantoni, is another team that will finish higher than its seed. The 43rd seed rattled off three straight wins Friday, assuring it at least a 12th place finish at the gold level. The B team topped Napa, 5-4; Dynamo, 14-2; and Newport Beach, 11-7. Stanford plays an 11 a.m. game at Live Oak High against Orange County Riptide on Saturday.
In the Classic Division, first-year program Mayfield 650 lost to South Valley South Valley 16-3 and to Sleepy Hollow B, 6-3. The Palo Alto-based program play at Menlo on Saturday, taking on San Gabriel at 10 a.m. and Viper Pigeon Black at 4 p.m.
Stanford took care of the Stars and Stripes, 8-5, early Friday morning but then fell to San Jose Almaden, 6-2, and will be playing for 13th place, starting with an 11 a.m. contest at Palo Alto High against an opponent to be determined.
Stanford split two games on Friday, beating the San Jose Express in a shootout, 5-5 (3-2) and losing to Back Bay Kahuna, 6-1. The team plays Foothill in a 11:10 a.m. game Saturday at Sacred Heart Prep.
Chase Krupitzer and James Palazzolo were among those who scored goals for Stanford in the win over San Jose.