First quarter meltdown dooms Cal in Big Splash

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For 24 full minutes, the 2011 Big Splash went exactly as advertised: a fierce, often chippy back-and-forth struggle between the nation's two top squads.

Unfortunately for the Bears, the outcome at Spieker Aquatics Center was all but decided in the first eight.

Second-ranked Cal (21-4, 6-1 in the MPSF) never fully recovered from a first quarter belly-flop, playing catch-up all the way in an 8-5 defeat on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, No. 1 Stanford (22-0, 6-0) continued its dominance of the Bears and the conference. The Cardinal notched a 30th consecutive win in the cross-bay rivalry and moved one win away from an undefeated regular season.

"Our plan was to come out hard, to really drill it to them and show them that we're at home and that we can really beat them," sophomore Breda Vosters said.

"That kind of went awry a little bit."

Her comment was ever the understatement, as Stanford stormed out to a commanding 5-0 lead that stunned both the home team and its fans. After Kaley Dodson opened the floodgates with a timely rebound, four other teammates beat Bears goalie Stephanie Peckham - including an easy transition attempt by Annika Dries.

"On offense, we just had good spacing, good visions and made some very good decisions," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "That really gave us confidence. (The Bears have) been playing great, so we're pleased to go over here and get off to a good start."

Cal could do little to weather the initial storm. Unable to contain the Cardinal's shooters, the Bears missed their first seven shots, with many attempts careening off the posts or crossbar.

Richard Corso's club would get back on track thanks to Vosters, who finished with a game-high hat trick. The sophomore from Winnipeg finally put her team on the board with 47 ticks left in the first quarter. She struck again in the second period, and nifty back-hand from freshman Ashley Young sliced Stanford's edge to 6-3 at intermission.

"Breda's first shot, it got the momentum going," Young said. "I feel like we kind of calmed down and really played our game, instead of being on our heels and backing up."

Anchored by 12 saves from Peckham, Cal was able to ground the Cardinal's attack and stay competitive after halftime. But it was Stanford's own defense that took center stage, not allowing another goal until 2:50 remaining.

Oland racked up six big saves on the evening, but the six players in front of her made things much easier. The Cardinal consistently forced contested shots late in the clock and came up with a number of field blocks.

"It's definitely frustrating coming that close but not being able to finish," Vosters said. "(The Cardinal are) the kind of team that they're beatable, but they never seem to break."


Ed Yevelev covers women's water polo. Contact him at [email protected]

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