May 14, 2010

By Kyle Kensing
Sports Media Exchange

SAN DIEGO - Stanford coach John Tanner said the goal for his team in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA women's water polo championship was to play with energy and enthusiasm.

The top seeded Cardinal answered that call and then some, topping eighth-seeded Pomona-Pitzer, 23-3.

"It's time to prove why we're the No. 1 team," said Stanford senior Alex Koran.

Following No. 6 Loyola Marymount's defeat of No. 3 UCLA, Koran said her Cardinal teammates had added motivation to open with fire.

"[A previous upset] registers for sure," she said. "We had to be focused on right now, be in the moment."

Stanford took control from the opening whistle, a key point of Tanner's game plan.

"We wanted to play at our tempo and avoid a slower game. We were decisive about how we play," he said.

The Cardinal came at Division III Pomona-Pitzer with a steady attack, scoring seven goals in each of the first three periods. Koran led Stanford with four goals, a tally matched by sophomore Melissa Seidemann.

The balanced and potent attack overwhelmed Pomona-Pitzer, which is making its third NCAA championship appearance in the last four seasons.

"Stanford was impressive today," Pomona-Pitzer coach Alex Rodriguez said. "These are girls who will be competing to play in the Olympics, if they haven't already."

Rodriguez said understanding that disparity from the onset is something he discussed with his team.

"As a D-III program, it's an exciting challenge. We had a good year, winning our conference in a scenario where we were down four," Rodriguez said.

For the Saghens, making the tournament itself was a major achievement. The squad needed overtime to rally past Occidental, 12-11, in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship May 2.

Pomona-Pitzer faces the loser of Friday's finale between Michigan and California, with Stanford getting the winner Saturday.

The tournament, Rodriguez said, is "the best in the sport of water polo," a point of emphasis for him leading up to the quarterfinals.

"We're sad we lost, but we talked about this before the game. You can look back knowing you played against Olympians and players you've seen on TV."