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Women's Water Polo: Baldoni shines as Stanford topples USC

Senior goalie, a CdM product, makes eight saves as Cardinal hand top-ranked Trojans their first loss of season.

April 13, 2013|By Matt Szabo

LOS ANGELES — The first time the Stanford and USC women's water polo teams played this year, the Trojans lit the Cardinal up for 13 goals.

But that game was nearly two months ago now. Good luck scoring anywhere close to that number lately on Stanford senior goalkeeper Kate Baldoni.

Baldoni, a Corona del Mar High alumna, was this week's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week after anchoring Stanford's 8-1 victory over UCLA last weekend. She had quite an encore on Saturday afternoon at USC.

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Baldoni made eight saves and the Cardinal never trailed the matchup of the top two teams in the country. No. 2 Stanford topped No. 1 USC, 6-4, handing the Trojans their first loss of the season and holding them to a season-low goal total.

In the process, Stanford clinched the top seed for the MPSF Tournament later this month.

"We played outstanding defense," said Baldoni, who was the MVP at the NCAA Tournament last year. "Last weekend against UCLA, we had some stellar field blocks. Going into today's game, we know their personnel, we know what their tendencies are. It was just really fun to go out there and actually execute on defense. A lot of fun."

Defending national champion Stanford (24-1, 5-0 MPSF) got a bit of redemption after falling to USC, 13-10, in the final of the UC Irvine-hosted Anteater Invitational on Feb. 24. USC (20-1, 4-1) took over the top spot in the country after that win.

Stanford Coach John Tanner said giving up 13 goals the first time was embarrassing. He was much happier with his team's defense in the rematch. The Cardinal held USC scoreless in the hosts' first five six-on-five opportunities, until USC's leading scorer Monica Vavic scored in the final minute of the match.

Stanford was active defensively, as Laguna Beach High product Annika Dries (two), Maggie Steffens and Kelsey Suggs each contributed field blocks. But credit also should go to Baldoni, who lowered her MPSF goals-against average to 4.26 per game. Only her freshman teammate in net, Gabby Stone, has a lower average of 4.22.

Tanner said Baldoni was "sensational" in the goal Saturday.

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