San Jose State University’s quest for its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) women’s water polo championship and berth in the NCAA Championship begins Friday, April 29, with #3-ranked Stanford in a quarterfinal round of the MPSF Tournament. The Spartans and Cardinal face off at 12:45 p.m. (PT) in the Hillman Memorial Aquatic Center on the CSU Bakersfield campus.
All San Jose State matches in the MPSF Tournament will be streamed live on gorunners.com.
The 12th-ranked Spartans (17-13) are seeded sixth in the MPSF Tournament. Stanford (19-4) is the third-seeded team. San Jose State must win three matches on three consecutive days for the MPSF title and NCAA Championship bid. UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Cal and CSU Bakersfield must do the same. Only #1-seed and unbeaten University of Southern California can claim the MPSF crown with wins on April 30 and May 1.
San Jose State and Stanford are meeting for the fourth time this season and first MPSF Tournament encounter since 2011. The Cardinal has wins of 10-5 in the LouStrong Memorial season-opening tournament, 17-8 in the Stanford Invitational, and 17-3 in the MPSF opener for both teams. In each match, Stanford capitalized on a first-half Spartan drought either offensively or defensively to build a lead en route to victory.
Offensively, San Jose State senior Rae Lekness will attract considerable attention. The MPSF scoring leader this season has 92 goals, matching the 10th best single-season total in league history. Lekness scored three times total in the previous three matches against Stanford this season, but was blanked by the Cardinal in the last encounter.
The Calgary, Alberta native also has 288 career goals and is four shy of passing USC’s Monica Vavic for the top spot on the MPSF’s career list. Vavic finished her career last year with 291 scores. Lekness also has a chance to set the San Jose State single-season scoring mark with five goals to pass her 2014 teammate Clara Espar Llaquet who scored 96 goals.
Freshman Carla Toha Vilanova was the Spartans’ top scorer against Stanford this season with five of her 48 goals for the season Toha Vilanova found the back of the cage three times in the loss at the Stanford Invitational.
Junior Donia Momen (32), co-captain Kelli Leabo (29), sophomore McKenna Yates (26) and junior Cara Robinson (24) are four more potential goal-scoring Spartans besides Lekness with personal single-season scoring highs in 2016.
The Spartans will play either UCLA or host CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, April 30. Match time will be either 11:00 a.m. or 12:45 p.m. (PT). As long as San Jose State wins on either April 29 or 30, the Spartans will play on the tournament’s final day, Sunday, May 1.