Coming off a great win over UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, the UC Irvine Women’s Water Polo team faced a tough quarterfinal opponent in the third-seeded Stanford Cardinal last Friday and left Anteater Aquatics Complex in a 10-4 loss.
Fatigued from their game the previous day, the women put up a terrific fight against one of the toughest teams in the MPSF conference.
‘Stanford is a step above most everyone else in the tournament as far as experience,’ said UCI Head Coach Dan Klatt. ‘They took this game very seriously. The players were fresh and swam very fast.’
Ranked sixth in the conference, the Anteaters have a record of 18-13, and were predicted to do well in the MPSF tournament. The 12-8 victory over Northridge last Saturday moved the Anteaters up to sixth place, their highest MPSF ranking ever.
Their season concluded with a record six wins, so the Anteaters have a lot to be proud of. The match on Friday was a definite challenge for the women’s team as they attempted to defeat one of the top teams in the nation.
Sophomore goalie Lauren Machanis made several excellent saves against Stanford. ‘I think she is probably one of the best [goalies] out there,’ Klatt commented on Machanis’ performance.
Another stand-out player was junior Jackie Prine who scored three of Irvine’s four goals. The fourth goal was scored by freshman Gianna Rossi.
The Anteaters played well on defense, but did little to pressure the Stanford defense. Offensively, UCI players were not as strong, making few goal attempts.
Through the first half of the game, Stanford’s speed and passing skills helped them score six goals, but Irvine fought hard in the second half and scored three goals of their own.
‘We were definitely tired from the last game, which affected how we played today,’ said sophomore driver Jessica Lewis. ‘Stanford played very well together as a team.’
Despite the loss, Klatt was positive about the experience gained from participation in a tournament with such strong teams. ‘Yesterday was a big win. This tournament is a good opportunity for us,’ he said.
They faced a formidable opponent in Stanford, a strong, fast team with an impressive record who went on to win 5-4 over No. 2 UCLA on Saturday.
In order to improve, the Anteaters are willing to learn from their opponents.
‘Stanford is a great team,’ said sophomore Angela Briggs. ‘It’s something to aspire to be, especially their speed. Their style of play is different from ours, and they’re good at anticipating what we’ll do.’
Stanford’s strengths allowed them to anticipate the strategies used by the Anteaters and block them, while their speed gave them an obvious advantage in the pool. Skillful passing between players kept UCI on their toes and struggling to keep up on defense.
‘We had good front-court defense, but we really struggled offensively,’ Klatt said. ‘Fortunately, we are only losing one senior this year. Everyone else will be returning.’
In a consolation match played on Saturday, the Anteaters lost 13-12 in quadruple overtime to the seventh-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils.