Stanford Edges USC to Secure Back-to-Back NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championships

STOCKTON, Calif. – No. 1 Stanford received multi-goal performances from four players and made several defensive stops down the stretch, defeating USC 11-9 to capture the 2023 NCAA championship.

The nation’s only program to have participated at every NCAA Championship since the event’s inception in 2001, Stanford claimed its ninth NCAA title overall while repeating for the first time since 2014-15. The Cardinal also secured national championships in 2019, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2002.

Appearing in its 12th NCAA final in 13 seasons, Stanford (24-1, 5-1 MPSF) avenged its only loss and closed out another stellar campaign which included a second straight MPSF crown and its best start to a season (16-0) since 2011.

Stanford executed when it mattered most on Sunday night, holding off USC (28-3, 6-0 MPSF) in the final two minutes. Ryann Neushul and Jewel Roemer both contributed two goals and two assists, pacing a balanced offensive attack which featured seven different goal scorers.

Stanford and USC have combined to win the last 13 NCAA titles, fueling a rivalry that dominates the sport. However, the Cardinal has won six of the last eight meetings overall, with all of those victories clinching a tournament title (NCAA -2, MPSF – 2, Barbara Kalbus Invitational – 2). The Trojans have won the last four MPSF regular-season tilts.

Maya Avital was sensational in goal, denying a penalty shot and making 11 saves, representing the seventh time this season she finished with at least 10 saves.

The Cardinal raced out to a 4-1 lead, highlighted by a pair of goals from Celeste Wijnbelt, who entered the game having scored eight all season.

USC responded with three unanswered goals in the second quarter, holding Stanford scoreless to force a 4-4 tie at halftime. Trojans standout Tilly Kearns made it 4-2 before Paige Hauschild scored a pair to bring the score even.

Leading 6-5 with 3:24 remaining in the third period, Stanford received goals from Sophie Wallace and Neushul to move ahead 8-5 with eight minutes left.

Wallace’s second goal put Stanford into double digits, up 10-6 with less than five minutes remaining, but USC scored three times in a three-minute span to cut the deficit to 10-9. Kearns, Alejandra Aznar, and Bayley Weber each found the back of the net in crunch time for the Trojans.

Ella Woodhead gave the Cardinal some breathing room with 50 seconds remaining, finding the cage for her 10th goal of the season to seal the national championship.

Head coach John Tanner, who improved his career record to 622-89 (.874) in 26 seasons, has directed the Cardinal to nine NCAA titles and ranks second among active Stanford head coaches behind only Lele Forood (10) of women’s tennis.

Stanford has won 133 NCAA championships (70 men, 63 women) and 160 national championships overall (76 men, 83 women, 1 coed). Last month, men’s gymnastics won it all to extend Stanford’s annual streak of one NCAA team championship to 47 consecutive seasons dating back to the 1976-77 campaign.

Of Stanford’s 133 NCAA championships, 35 have been won by fall sports, 32 by winter sports and 66 by spring sports. Since 2000, Stanford has captured 57 NCAA crowns.

Stanford Goals: Ryann Neushul (2), Jewel Roemer (2), Sophie Wallace (2), Celeste Wijnbelt (2), Jenna Flynn (1), Christina Hicks (1), Ella Woodhead (1).

USC — Tilly Kearns 2, Paige Hauschild 2, Alejandra Aznar 2, Grace TehaneyMireia GuiralBayley Weber.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments