Sacred Heart Prep grad Paul Rudolph probably did more than score the winning goal for the Stanford men's water polo team. He most likely gave the fourth-ranked Cardinal an inside track into the NCAA championship, to be hosted by Stanford.
One buzzer-beater in overtime wasn't enough for Rudolph on Saturday in Los Angeles. The redshirt senior, minutes after tying the game at 15 at the end of the first overtime session, beat the clock at the end of the second to give Stanford a 17-16 victory over second-ranked USC.
The goal was Rudolph's fourth of the game and his third in overtime, as Stanford snapped a six-game skid against USC and registered its first victory against the Trojans since a 6-4 win in the SoCal Tournament semifinals on Oct. 2, 2011.
Stanford extended its winning streak to eight games and improved to 18-4 overall. More importantly, Stanford upped its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation record to 6-1 with one conference game remaining, effectively clinching a top-three seed at Nov. 29-Dec. 1's MPSF Tournament.
The Cardinal closes the regular season next Saturday, hosting California in The Big Splash at Avery Aquatic Center. The game's start time will be announced Monday.
(The Big Splash is normally held in conjunction with the Big Game and is scheduled about two hours before the football kickoff).
Tied 12-12 after 32 minutes of regulation, USC jumped out to a 15-13 lead on the Cardinal with 1:23 to go in the first session of extra time, but Conner Cleary scored a 6-on-5 goal with 55 seconds remaining and Rudolph beat the buzzer to tie it.
The Trojans took another lead in the second overtime, going up 16-15 on Mace Rapsey's fourth goal of the game, but in the final 33 seconds the Cardinal stunned the Trojans.
Alex Bowen scored the last of his four goals to tie things up, and after USC couldn't capitalize on its final chance, the Cardinal rushed into action in the final seconds, capping the wild contest with Rudolph's winner at the horn.
His winner ended a wild final 14 minutes in which the teams combined for 15 goals. Stanford led USC (22-3, 4-2 MPSF) 10-8 entering the fourth period, and went up 11-8 with 6:52 remaining, but the Trojans got quick goals from Connor Virjee and Nikola Vavic to pull within one.
Bowen got the Cardinal lead back to two with a power-play goal with 2:09 remaining, but USC answered with goals from Rapsey and Kostas Genidounias, the second coming with 1:11 left in regulation.
Over the first three periods the teams fought back-and-forth, as neither side led by more than a goal as the first half ended with the Cardinal up 6-5.
After USC took a 1-0 lead 2:15 into the contest, the game would be tied four more times until the break, with Stanford taking its first lead at 4-3 with 5:14 to go in the half, and subsequently twice answering USC equalizers.
Goals from Bowen and Bonanni opened the second half to give Stanford the biggest lead for either team to that point at 8-5. USC fought its way back to within one at 8-7 but goals from Nick Hoversten and Bonanni sandwiched one from Rapsey to make it 10-8 at the end of the third frame.
Along with the four goals from Bowen and Rudolph, Bonanni and BJ Churnside each posted hat tricks, Cleary scored twice while Hoversten and Reid Chase added a goal apiece. Goalie Drew Holland made 13 saves in the contest.
No. 6 Stanford staved off a pesky Oregon State team to complete a 25-22, 25-23, 25-20 sweep Saturday in Corvallis.
The Cardinal moves to 20-5 overall and 13-3 in the Pac-12, while the Beavers fall to 9-18 overall and 0-16 in the conference.
Senior middle blocker Carly Wopat led Stanford with 13 kills on 18 swings with just one error (.667).
Sophomore Inky Ajanaku added eight kills and six blocks, while sophomore Jordan Burgess finished with seven kills, 11 digs and tied her career-high with three aces.
Sophomore outside hitter Brittany Howard registered seven kills, nine digs and two blocks, while senior Rachel Williams tallied five kills, including the 1,100th of her career, six digs, two blocks and two aces.
Sophomore setter Madi Bugg notched 34 assists, seven digs and two aces in the win. Junior libero Kyle Gilbert registered her 23rd double-digit dig match of the season, finishing with a team-high 15.
Stanford returns to The Farm next week to play host to No. 3 Washington and Washington State. The Cardinal will take on the Huskies on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and the Cougars on Friday, Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. Both matches will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
No. 23 Stanford wrestling team (4-0) remained undefeated on the season with a 17-16 win over 15th-ranked Maryland (3-1), Saturday.
The dual ended in a 16-16 tie, but by criteria of total match points (63-57) the Cardinal gained the edge overall.
Stanford and Maryland each won five bouts on the day. Leading the Cardinal was redshirt freshman Jim Wilson with a 15-2 major decision at 165 pounds.
Maryland took a 3-0 lead in the dual, which began at 141 pounds, as Shyheim Brown secured a 7-0 decision over Peter Russo. However, the Cardinal responded by capturing wins in the next three bouts to take a 10-3 advantage over the Terrapins.
Redshirt freshman Maxwell Hvolbek got things going for Stanford with a thrilling 7-5 comeback win over Frank Goodwin at 149 pounds.
No. 17 Bret Baumbach then posted a 7-1 decision over Ben Dorsay at 157 pounds to give the Cardinal the lead. Wilson increased Stanford's lead to 10-3 in the dual with his major decision.
Maryland then won the next four bouts to regain the lead, 16-10. At 174 pounds, Tony Gardner escaped with a 7-6 win over Stanford redshirt freshman Zach Nevills in double overtime.
Stanford sophomore Evan Silver, ranked No. 9 at 125 pounds, cut the Maryland lead to 16-13 with a commanding 7-1 decision against Billy Rappo.
Redshirt senior Ryan Mango, ranked No. 3 nationally, tied up the final score with a 12-8 decision over Tyler Goodwin at 133 pounds, forcing the tiebreaking criteria to come into play.
Up next, Stanford travels to Fresno for the Roadrunner Open on Sunday.