BERKELEY, CA., Nov. 23. TOP-ranked Stanford (21-3) closed out its regular season men's water polo schedule today with an 8-7 win over No. 2 California (16-6) in the annual "Big Splash."
The game took place at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex prior to the 105th "Big Game" football matchup that saw the Golden Bears prevail, 30-7.
In the closely contested polo match, the game-winner was scored with five seconds left by sophomore Greg Crum as Stanford claimed its first Heaston Trophy (which was introduced in 1999).
With six ties during the game, the Cardinal and the Golden Bears each had an opportunity at the win. But on the strength of four goals and a pivotal assist by sophomore Tony Azevedo, the top-ranked team in the nation claimed its 21st victory of the season.
Stanford jumped out to the biggest lead by either team during the third quarter with a 7-5 margin. Senior Jeff Nesmith got a pass into Peter Hudnut in the hole to go up 6-5 with 4:22 remaining in the third period, Azevedo, last season's Player of the Year, scored his fourth goal of the day as he beat Cal goalie Russell Bernstein one-on-one for the two-point margin.
The Golden Bears rallied in the fourth, scoring two goals to even out the match at 7-7. Both Bernstein and Cardinal keeper Nick Ellis recorded important saves in the waning moments of the game, but with five seconds remaining, Azevedo flicked a pass in front of the Cal goal to Crum who got the ball in his left hand and fired it into the back of the net for the game-winner. Stanford finished off Cal with a steal by junior Mike Derse as the clock hit zero to give Stanford the 8-7 win.
Stanford and California will both travel to Los Alamitos, CA, this weekend for the three-day MPSF Tournament on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the U.S. Water Polo National Training Center. Stanford secured the second seed and will be taking on No. 7 Pacific at 5 p.m. on Friday. Cal will be the third-seeded team in the conference tournament and will face UC Irvine at 2:30 p.m. The conference champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, which will be hosted by Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles on Dec. 7-8.
Stanford 2 3 2 1 8
California 2 2 1 2 7
Tony Azevedo 4, Peter Hudnut 2, Greg Crum 1, Jeff Guyman 1.
Andrew Stoddard 2, Attilah Banhidy 1, Todd Hylton 1, Will Quist 1, Chris Lathrop 1, Greg Panawek 1.
Nick Ellis (Stan) 5
Russell Bernstein (Cal) 12