Disastrous first quarter dooms Bears in Big Splash

Photo: Cal junior driver Emily Csikos looks for a shot against Stanford's Kim Krueger. Csikos was held scoreless in the Big Splash.
Eugene Lau/Photo
Cal junior driver Emily Csikos looks for a shot against Stanford's Kim Krueger. Csikos was held scoreless in the Big Splash.

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Stanford's message at Spieker Aquatics Complex was loud and clear.

History can wait.

Second-ranked Cal entered Saturday evening's Big Splash eyeing a top MPSF tournament seed and the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking in the NCAA era. Yet, the Bears found themselves playing catch-up all game long, never fully recovering from a first-quarter belly-flop in the 8-5 home loss.

Meanwhile, No. 1 Stanford (22-0, 6-0 in the MPSF) continued its dominance of the Bears and the conference. The Cardinal notched a 30th consecutive victory in the cross-bay rivalry and moved one win away from an undefeated regular season.

"Our plan was to come out hard ... show them that we're at home and that we can really beat them," driver Breda Vosters said. "And that kind of went awry a little bit."

Her comment was ever the understatement, as Stanford stormed out to a commanding 5-0 first period lead. After Cardinal driver Kaley Dodson opened the floodgates with a timely rebound shot, four of her teammates beat Bears goalie Stephanie Peckham.

"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."

As its opponent fired on all cylinders, Cal (21-4, 6-1) could do little to respond initially. Unable to contain the Cardinal's shooters, the Bears missed their first seven attempts, with many careening off the posts or crossbar.

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

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

Anchored by 12 saves in the game from Peckham, Cal rebounded to ground the Cardinal's attack into its second-lowest output of the year. But it was Stanford's own defense that took center stage, as the Cardinal built an 8-3 cushion and did not allow another goal until 2:50 remaining. Amber Oland racked up six saves, but her defenders made things much easier. The Cardinal forced contested shots late in the clock and consistently came up with field blocks.

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


Ed Yevelev covers women's water polo.

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