Stanford, Behind Abramson and Williams, Beats UCLA for 1st MPSF Invite Title Since 2011

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UCLA's Tommy Gruwell being defended by Stanford AJ Rossman at the 2019 MPSF Invitational. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

LOS ANGELES, CA. The Stanford Cardinal (10-1) used deadly shooting and a solid penalty killing defense to capture the MPSF Invitational—familiarly known as the Socal Invite—championship game Sunday afternoon at the Spieker Aquatic Center over the host UCLA Bruins by a score of 13-9. The Cardinal blistered the net all day with 11 even-strength goals and 2 penalty shots, shooting at a 46% clip (13-29).  They limited the Bruins to four extra man goals over 14 opportunities.

mpsf-shield-finalStanford Head Coach John Vargas was delighted, but circumspect while watching his team go through a warm down swim.

“No question we are happy with the win and the offensive output and how we spaced out the goals, but we have so much work to do,” he said of his Cardinal team, which scored 60 goals in 4 tourney games.

Vargas noted that opponents are playing to stop the 2019 Cutino Award winning center Ben Hallock.

“Ben’s an amazing player,” his coach said. “I’m biased, of course, but I think he’s the top center in the country. They have to come with schemes to stop him. We know it and we have to work on it.”

[On Deck With Ben Hallock of Stanford and the U.S. Men’s Water Polo Team]

The veteran coach knows that playing well in September is not the ultimate payoff window “I’m super happy with our five man (defense) but our front court defense needs a lot of work.  We took almost triple the exclusions UCLA took (14 to 6). We are taking too many exclusions off ball and it just doesn’t make sense”.

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Stanford’s Ty Abramson converts a penalty shot against UCLA. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Junior Tyler Abramson led the Cardinal attack with 4 goals and senior Bennett Williams notched three goals, two drawn exclusions and a steal. Hallock, while attracting consistent attention from helping Bruin defenders, managed to score twice while adding an assist and two drawn exclusions for the Cardinal. Dylan Woodhead chipped in two goals and two assists for an unselfish Cardinal team that managed to score the first goal in each period. Goalie Andrew Chun delivered nine saves for the Cardinal in a winning effort.

The host Bruins were led by sophomore Ashworth Molthen, who scored three times, assisted on one score, drew an exclusion and made a steal. Jake Cavano had a solid afternoon with a goal, an assist, two drawn exclusions, and a steal.  Center Felix Brozyna-Vilim notched a goal and drew three exclusions for a Bruin squad that played 11 players who are sophomores or younger, including five Freshmen. Keeper Alex Wolf made five saves, added a steal, and drew an exclusion from U.S. national team teammate Hallock.

Stanford started quickly, scoring on a penalty drawn by Hallock and converted by Abramson, then added a second goal by  Williams at the 5:17 mark. Cavano answered for UCLA to cut the Cardinal lead to 2-1. Hallock scored out of center for Stanford and Andy Rodgers scored a 6/5 goal for UCLA to make it 3-2 Stanford after one quarter.

Williams converted a penalty shot for Stanford three minutes into the second period and Quinn Woodhead added a center shot goal just over a minute later to push the lead to 5-2 for Stanford. Jackson Seybold then scored 47 seconds later to give the Cardinal a 6-2 lead. Chase Travisano scored off a Molthen helper to cut the Stanford lead to 6-3, but Hallock redirected an entry pass into the cage in response only 25 seconds later to maintain a four-goal lead at intermission.

Cardinal beat back Bruin advances

The second half opened with an emphatic goal by Abramson: his left-handed rocket caromed off the bar and bounced off Wolf’s head and into the cage for the Cardinal’s largest lead of the game at 8-3. The Bruins scored a 6/5 on the next possession on a goal by Tommy Gruwell to get to 8-4.

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Stanford’s Jackson Seybold. Photo Courtesy: Cathryn Hayne

After a Bruin turnover on a 6/5 advantage, Abramson finished a counterattack with a goal to push Stanford back to 9-4. Molthen converted on a power-play for UCLA to cut its deficit to 9-5. And then Vilim-Brozyna won a loose ball in front of the Cardinal cage and stuffed it home to get the Bruins within three.  Dylan Woodhead pushed the Cardinal to another four goal lead at 10-6 before the Bruins closed out the quarter with two goals, one on a power-play by Matt Kacura then a natural by Molthen to bring it to 10-8 after three periods.

The fourth quarter was all Stanford as they held UCLA to a lone goal while scoring three.  Dylan Woodhead scored 27 seconds into the period, stifling the Bruin rally, and two possessions later, Abramson added his fourth goal to regain a four-goal advantage. Molthen potted his third of the game for the hosts, but Williams replied only 21 seconds later for the final Cardinal margin of victory.

Looking ahead

Stanford, a likely #1 ranked team in the coming week will play Pacific at Stockton in a rematch of their semifinal won by the Cardinal 15-14.

UCLA hosts Long Beach State next Friday and then face UC Santa Barbara the following Friday in a rematch of their MPSF Invitational semifinal, won 9-8 by the Bruins.

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