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Preview: 2012 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Women’s Water Polo Championships

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April 27 - 29, Avery Aquatic Center, Stanford University

1. Stanford University Cardinal: 7-0 MPSF, 21-1 overall
Undefeated (again) in its conference and top-ranked in the nation, Stanford gets to begin its title defense in its own pool, and is understandably favored to win this tournament and move on to the NCAA Championships. The Cardinal are led by freshmen Kiley Neushul (46 goals) and Ashley Grossman (40 goals) and face Hawai’i in the tournament’s opener.

2. UCLA Bruins: 5-2 MPSF, 18-3 Overall
The second-seeded Bruins are the only squad to defeat Stanford this year, a 5-4 neutral-site victory at the UC Irvine Tournament in late February. That win seems ages ago after the Cardinal blew out UCLA at its own pool by seven goals just last weekend. YouTube regular KK Clark leads the Bruins with two and a quarter goals per game.

3. University of Southern California Trojans: 5-2 MPSF, 19-4 Overall
Awkwardly seeded third while ranked second in the nation in the CWPA poll, USC could present a serious challenge to the top seeds. Two one-goal losses to UCLA are overshadowed by the yet more impressive one-goal loss to Stanford at Avery on April 4. Hungarian national team goalkeeper Flora Bolonyai allows just 5.46 goals per game for the Trojans, while Sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist has scored 42 goals.

4. Arizona State University Sun Devils, 4-3 MPSF, 23-5 Overall
The Sun Devils have emerged as one of best collegiate programs in 2012 and beat out 2011 MPSF champion Cal for the fourth seed by defeating the Bears 10-7 in Tempe on March 10. Alicia Brightwell leads all MPSF scoring with 63 goals. But ASU has trouble with precisely the teams that present the greatest challenge to earning an NCAA bid.

5. University of California, Berkeley, Bears: 4-3 MPSF, 17-7 Overall
It’s appropriate that Cal and ASU are expected to meet in the quarterfinals. The two squads split their regular season meetings; Cal won a neutral-site match in Irvine, 8-5, on Februay 25. Breda Vosters leads the Bears in scoring with two goals per game.

6. San Jose State University Spartans: 2-5 MPSF, 8-11 Overall
7. San Diego State University Aztecs: 1-6 MPSF, 21-9 Overall
8. University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine: 0-7 MPSF, 10-12 Overall