After spoiling California’s senior day last Sunday, the Stanford field hockey team looks to send its own seniors, Ale Moss and Stephanie Byrne, out with a perfect NorPac record this Friday against UC-Davis.
The No. 9 Cardinal (12-2, 5-0 NorPac) last met the Aggies (3-9, 1-2) on Sept. 25 and easily earned the 3-1 win.
The team plans to honor Moss, Byrne and redshirt juniors Devon Holman and Katie Mitchell in a pregame ceremony. In the group’s time on the Farm, Stanford played in three NCAA Tournament games and won the last four NorPac Championships. The squad has helped bring recognition to West Coast field hockey, which has been the proverbial younger sibling to East Coast powerhouses like Syracuse, Connecticut and Maryland.
The class was part of the record-breaking 2009 team, whose 17 victories are the most in school history. This year the seniors have seen the Cardinal climb as high as No. 6 in the national rankings and win nine consecutive games, both matching school records.
The formidable play of Moss and Byrne on both sides of the field has made the Cardinal a strong force to be reckoned with.
“They’re both really strong personalities and that has had a huge positive effect on the atmosphere of the team,” said assistant student coach Xanthe Travlos, who played for the Cardinal from 2007-10.
Moss, a fifth-year senior, established herself as a dependably clutch force in goal and earned All-NorPac honors three times. Last season she had career bests of 24 goals allowed and a goals-against-average of 1.31. This year her defensive dominance has not stopped, as the Cardinal has dropped only two games — both of which were on the road.
“We like to think of [Ale] as the hippie of our team,” Travlos said. “She’s pretty eccentric. As a goalkeeper you have to be a little bit crazy when balls are getting hit at you at 100 miles an hour.”
Byrne, a starting attacker for the Cardinal, complements Moss’s fierce style of play on the other side of the field. A consistent player, Byrne has started all but four games of her career. In fact, eight of her 23 career goals have been game-winners; she secured Stanford’s 2009 appearance in the NCAA Tournament with an overtime goal against Boston University in a play-in game. This year she leads the team with 11 assists and is third in overall points with 18.
“I’ve never met someone who smiles as much as Steph,” Travlos said. “Her bubbly, happy and charming personality keeps the team going.”
“Steph is such a leader, but really leads by example. As a center forward, it’s one of the most tiring positions to play…on attack you have to make sure you get to each ball, and she never gives up,” Travlos added.
Friday night’s contest should be an exciting cap to the Cardinal’s successful home and conference campaigns. UC-Davis has gained valuable experience since its previous meeting with Stanford; last week, the Aggies came within one goal of California late in the game before falling 3-1. In only the fourth year of its field hockey program, UC-Davis has proved it can compete with the best, taking the Cardinal to overtime last season before Stanford prevailed 2-1.
“The biggest thing we’re thinking of is that we give them a lot of respect and look for whatever they throw at us,” Travlos said, adding that the squad needs “to be flexible to execute our game plan and be ready for anything that might happen. I think that’s a really important part to be a successful team. It takes a truly great team to play when the situation isn’t always predictable.”
This matchup is a chance to continue the team’s momentum as it goes on the road next week to face No. 7 Michigan and Michigan State.
The Cardinal takes on the Aggies at 7 p.m. tonight at the Varsity Turf.