The curtain has fallen on the first weekend of conference play, leaving No. 1 Stanford soccer with two victories to its name. The Cardinal (11-0-2, 2-0-0 Pac-10) defeated both No. 20 USC (8-3-2, 1-1-0) and No. 13 UCLA (8-4-1, 1-1-0) on the road in southern California.
On Friday night under the lights of the Coliseum, the Cardinal met a fervent USC squad. At the half, the scoreboard remained tied at zero. Stanford and USC each had six shots at halftime, but the game took a turn in the 59th minute when senior forward Christen Press sunk the ball in the back of the net from 20 yards out.
With her 60th career goal, Press now holds the Stanford record for goals scored. The mark, set by Sarah Rafanelli in 1993, had been untouched for 17 years.
But the goals didn’t stop there. The 65th minute arrived and so did junior midfielder Teresa Noyola with a shot from the top of the box. Noyola managed to sneak the ball past USC goalkeeper Shelby Church, who couldn’t quite reach the left post shot in time to keep it out of the Trojan net.
With plenty of time still left on the clock, USC kept up its intensity and drew 14 total fouls from Stanford, which only drew eight from USC. Off one USC free kick, Trojan defender Mia Bruno collected an attempted Cardinal clearance and put the ball away in the 84th minute.
Stanford held the score at 2-1 for the remainder of the game and came out on top.
“We learned a lot about the mentality it takes to win a game in the Pac-10,” said Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “USC went after us. We’ve got to be hungry, hungry enough to win.”
Two days after defeating USC, the Cardinal headed to Drake Stadium to face UCLA. The Bruins entered the game coming off a 1-0 victory over No. 16 California, and were bolstered by the return of forward Sydney Leroux, who came back after two weeks at the U.S. senior national-team camp.
Stanford delivered early, holding Leroux to one shot over the course of the game and earning its first goal in the 23rd minute of play. After a Bruin handball, Press stepped up to take the penalty kick and scored her 16th goal of the season.
“When you’re in a tight game, especially away from home, and get a goal, it can break the ice,” Ratcliffe said. “This one broke the ice. It was big.”
The Cardinal continued to press, taking a total of 12 shots during the game (UCLA took seven), and in the 36th minute, sophomore midfielder Mariah Nogueira took advantage of one of three Stanford corner kicks and sunk the ball in the Bruin net from the six, closing the scoring at 2-0.
The weekend came to a close and sent Stanford back up north in good spirits.
“We knew the first weekend was going to determine who’s going to have the best shot of controlling the Pac-10,” said senior midfielder Allison McCann. “This was huge.”
“They understood the importance of this week,” Ratcliffe said. “But the job’s not done. There are plenty of tough teams in this conference.”
Conference play for the Cardinal will continue this weekend, when Stanford will host Washington State on Friday at 5 p.m. and Washington on Sunday at noon at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.