Stanford women sweep MPSF postseason water polo awards

Makenzie Fischer was named the MPSF Player of the Year. Photo by John P. Lozano/

Stanford swept the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation major postseason awards, as announced by the conference on Thursday. Junior Makenzie Fischer was voted the MPSF player of the year, freshman Ryann Neushul its newcomer of the year and John Tanner its coach of the year.

Stanford, which now boasts seven player of the year, seven newcomer of the year and six coach of the year awardees, won all three in the same season for the first time.

Fischer and Neushul headlined the list of five Cardinal to earn All-MPSF recognition. Fischer was joined on the All-MPSF first team by her younger sister, sophomore Aria Fischer. Senior Kat Klass was an All-MPSF second team selection, while redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emalia Eichelberger received All-MPSF honorable mention accolades along with Neushul, who also landed on the MPSF All-Newcomer team.

Makenzie Fischer continues one of the most impressive offensive seasons in MPSF history. She's averaging 4.00 goals per game and is more than a full goal per game better than the No. 2 player in the conference (Emma Wright, Cal; 2.83). In the past 15 years, only two MPSF players have even averaged more than 3.00 goals per game: USC's Monica Vavic in 2015 (3.33) and Pacific's Sarah Harris in 2007 (3.64).

Fischer is sixth on Stanford's all-time scoring list with 197 career goals in just 69 games (2.86 goals per game). Ellen Estes (1997-98, 2001-02) is next on the list with 214. The junior's 76 goals this season are second in school history. Only three other Cardinal have scored 70 times in a season: Ellen Estes in 1998 (93), Melissa Seidemann in 2013 (75) and Lauren Silver in 2008 (71).

Fischer's MPSF Player of the Year award puts her in the same company with Maggie Steffens (2017, 2015), Annika Dries (2011), Brenda Villa (2003, 2001) and Estes (1998).

Neushul is Stanford's conference-record seventh MPSF Newcomer of the Year recipient following Klass (2016), Jordan Raney (2015), older sister Kiley Neushul (2012), Seidemann (2009), Amber Oland (2008) and Silver (2006). A two-time MPSF/Kap7 Newcomer of the Week, the freshman has put away 27 goals this season and is 17th in the league in goals per game (1.35).

Tanner earned his sixth MSPF Coach of the Year nod to go along with awards from 2008, 2007, 2003, 2002 and 1998. Last month, it was announced Tanner would go into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame on Friday, June 7 alongside 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time, first-team Cardinal All-American Jessica Steffens.

In his 22nd season at Stanford, Tanner took the reins of the developing women's water polo program in 1998 and has turned it into a powerhouse that has produced six NCAA Championships (2002, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017).

A five-time national coach of the year (2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011) who owns a 541-78 (.874) career record at Stanford, Tanner has tutored nine ACWPC Players of the Year, seven Peter J. Cutino award winners, 112 ACWPC All-America selections and student-athletes that have earned a total of 198 ACWPC All-Academic selections.

Under Tanner's watch, Stanford is the only women's water polo program in the nation to have competed at all 18 NCAA Championships since its inception in 2001, and has finished in the top-three nationally each season since he came on board.

Aria Fischer, who was on the All-MPSF second team as a freshman a year ago, moved up to the first team, following a regular season in which she was second on the team with 41 goals and seventh in the conference in goals per game (2.16). A two-time MPSF/Kap7 Player of the Week this season, Fischer's career-high five goals in a 13-12 win at Cal on April 13 clinched the No. 1 seed for Stanford in this weekend's conference championship.

Klass earned her first MPSF honor since she was named the conference's newcomer of the year in 2016 after scoring 30 goals, including three hat tricks. She is 12th in the league in scoring average (1.58 goals per game), has scored 143 times in her career and is one of three on the current Stanford roster with more than 100 goals along with Makenzie Fischer and Madison Berggren (112).

Eichelberger's 7.28 goals against average is fifth in the conference and her 8.99 saves per game are fourth. During a stretch of three consecutive one-goal victories over No. 1 USC (9-8), No. 3 UCLA (7-6) and No. 4 Cal (13-12) in late March and early April, the redshirt sophomore made 29 saves, including 11 at the Trojans and a career-high 12 on the road in Berkeley.

At USC, Eichelberger made three stops and held the Trojans scoreless in overtime and also assisted on Makenzie Fischer's game-winning goal, delivering a pinpoint pass the length of the pool, which Fischer scored cross-cage early in the first extra period.

No. 1 Stanford (19-1, 6-0 MPSF) enters postseason play at home this weekend when it hosts the 2019 MPSF Women's Water Polo Championship at Avery Aquatic Center. The Cardinal, which has a bye into the semifinals, will open its tournament on Saturday, April 27 at 2:30 p.m. against the winner of No. 4 seed California (15-6, 3-3) and No. 5 seed San Jose State (10-13, 2-4).

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