Card Wins MPSF Title
LOS ANGELES – This most unusual men's water polo season took a championship turn for Stanford as the Cardinal captured the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title with a thrilling 9-8 victory over top-seeded Cal in the tournament final at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center on Sunday.
Third-seeded Stanford won its third consecutive MPSF championship by scoring six unanswered goals in the second and third quarters to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 7-4 lead. Larsen Weigle ignited the flurry, Parker Killion drew Stanford even and Troy Gleason punched in the go-ahead goal.
Stanford's lead ballooned to 9-5 on AJ Rossman's score with 7:31 left in the fourth, capping an 8-1 run. However, Cal surged with a rally of its own, scoring three straight. Tommy Kennedy's goal with 27 seconds left cut the Golden Bears' deficit to 9-8, but Stanford was able to run out the clock to secure the victory.
AJ Rossman cuts the Card deficit to 4-3. Photo by Catharyn Hayne.
Coach John Vargas's Cardinal earns the MPSF's automatic berth into the National Collegiate tournament at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Stanford (6-3) gets the No. 1 seed and receive a bye into the semifinals. On Saturday, March 20, at 2 p.m. PT, Stanford plays the winner of the opening round game between UCLA (6-7) and Cal Baptist (7-4). Cal (8-4) is the No. 2 seed and also receives a bye into the semifinals.
The final is March 21 at 2 p.m. PT. The tournament will be streamed live on NCAA.com.
Seven players scored for Stanford, with AJ Rossman and Weigle leading the team with two goals apiece. Cal (8-4) shut out Stanford scoring leader Tyler Abramson for the first time this season, but the Cardinal did the same to Cal's Nikolaos Papanikolaou, the MPSF's Player of the Year, who was held without a goal or assist.
Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Chun made 13 saves and stopped a five-meter penalty shot in the third quarter.
Tyler Abramson. Photo by Catharyn Hayne.
This was the fourth consecutive season that Stanford and Cal met in the MPSF title game, with Stanford winning the past three. This matchup, according to the CWPA rankings, pitted No. 1 Cal against No. 2 Stanford, though the tournament seeding had Stanford at No. 3.
Men's water polo is played collegiately in the fall, but COVID-19 changed that. Stanford, due to Santa Clara County health restrictions, got a late start to the season, missing an MPSF round-robin weekend at Cal on Jan. 23-24.
Stanford, the defending NCAA champion, was ranked No. 1 when it opened at the MPSF round-robin four-team event at USC on Feb. 6-7, going 1-2, and hosted a similar event Feb. 20-21. The Card went 2-1 in that one to close the regular season with its only home games of the season.
Next, Stanford heads into the national tournament on a five-game winning streak and seeks its 12th national title.
Andrew Chun. Photo by Catharyn Hayne.
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MPSF tournament final
At Spieker Aquatics Center, UCLA
Stanford 9, California 8
Stanford 1 2 5 1 – 9
Cal 4 0 1 3 – 8
Stanford goals: AJ Rossman 2, Larsen Weigle 2, Ethan Parrish, Troy Gleason, Parker Killion, Andrew Churukian, Quinn Woodhead. Saves: Andrew Chun 13.
Cal goals: Marko Valecic, Chris Ball, Miles O'Brien-Schridde, Garrett Dunn, Tommy Kennedy, Warren Loth, Jack Deely, George Avakian. Saves: Adrian Weinberg 8.