After a dominant 6-0 romp over Harvard last Friday at the Varsity Turf, the Stanford women’s field hockey team will be taking its game on the road, playing a trio of matches on the East Coast this weekend. The No. 20 Cardinal (8-3, 3-1 NorPac) begins play this Friday, as the team takes on No. 8 Syracuse (8-4). This match will be followed by two more away games against Rutgers (5-9) on Sunday and Northeastern (6-7) on Monday.
Recovering from a nail-biting 2-1 loss to No. 1 North Carolina (14-0) in late September, the Cardinal has gone on to win its last three games. But despite the strong offensive performance against Harvard last week, Stanford fell three spots in the coaches’ poll as Drexel, Albany and Old Dominion jumped over it in the national rankings. Now, after 16 consecutive weeks of being in the coaches’ poll, a loss on the road this weekend may drop the Card out of the national rankings for the first time since September of 2009.
Stanford has done a great job on the road, with a 6-1 record away from home. Its only loss came at the hands of undefeated North Carolina, which is also the defending NCAA champion. In fact, the Card has done significantly better on the road than it has at home, with a record of only 2-2 playing on the Varsity Turf.
All three of the Cardinal’s losses have come by one-point margins, with its two losses at home to No. 7 Michigan State and California both decided by goals scored in the last five minutes of the match. Syracuse, on the other hand, has defeated several ranked teams in highly contested matches, coming off an overtime victory against No. 18 Albany last Sunday. At the same time, the Orange has not been defeated on its home turf, posting a 3-0 record.
The Stanford squad has done a solid job throughout the season, scoring an average of 3.18 goals per game while holding a shooting percentage of .201. Defensively, the Card has kept its opponents to only 1.27 goals per game. The team possesses great depth as well, with 15 of 18 players on the squad having scored at least one goal. Senior defender Katherine Donner was named NorPac Player of the Week last week after scoring two goals in the match against Harvard. Donner became the fifth Cardinal team member to receive the player of the week honor this season.
Though the Syracuse team has put up lower numbers than the Card, the Orange is not to be underestimated. Playing a tough schedule filled with East Coast schools, Syracuse has not lost any of its four matches played against opponents in the top 20 ranked lower than itself.
“It’s going to be a challenging weekend,” said head coach Tara Danielson, who acknowledged the difficulty of playing three games in four days while traveling across the country.
Coach Danielson stressed that quick ball movement would be a key to victory against the very physical play of the New England teams, but seemed quite confident about the Cardinal’s upcoming matches.
“The expectation for this weekend is to execute well and to start showing some signs of postseason play,” she added.
After this weekend, the Card will play its last two games of the regular season — conference matches against Pacific and Cal. With a 3-1 conference record, Stanford is currently second in the West Division of the NorPac, behind Cal. However, two wins in its remaining NorPac matches would give Stanford a better seed and more momentum going into its postseason, which begins with the NorPac Championships in early November.