Now having scored three or more goals in five consecutive games, the Stanford women’s soccer team bludgeoned Utah and Colorado by the combined score of 8-1 this weekend behind a pair of two-goal performances by senior forward Lindsay Taylor.
Improving to 16-0-1 with a perfect 8-0 Pac-12 record on the season, the No. 1 Cardinal can clinch its third straight conference title with a win at second-place Oregon State on Friday night.
Taylor extended her Pac-12 scoring lead with 14 goals on the year, just two short of the career mark set during her freshman season. Each of her tallies on the weekend was assisted.
“The services that came in were really great,” Taylor said. “I’m really fortunate to have great teammates who were able to get me the ball, so I was open around a lot of shots.”
Taylor got things off to a very quick start against Utah (8-7-1, 4-3), a squad performing in the top half of the conference after a mediocre 2010 season, with a fourth-minute goal that came off feeds from senior midfielder Teresa Noyola and freshman forward Chioma Ubogagu—a duo that leads Stanford in assists, with 10 and 9, respectively. Just 12 minutes later, Ubogagu added a tally of her own when junior midfielder Mariah Nogueira found her behind the defense for a left-footer to the far post.
Meanwhile, sophomore goalkeeper Emily Oliver was sharp as always in net, making two saves and only facing three shots from the Utes in the first half. Four minutes after Taylor’s second goal of the match, a 62nd-minute header off a feed from Ubogagu, Oliver was pulled in favor of junior Lindsay Dickerson, making her fourth appearance of the year. And just 11 seconds later, the Cardinal put things away for its backup with a close-range finisher by junior midfielder Nina Watkins, her first of the season as a non-starter and just the second of her career.
Substitutes would again play a big role for Stanford on Sunday; with temperatures reaching the low-80s, head coach Paul Ratcliffe didn’t force any of his players to stay in for the whole 90 minutes—by contrast, the Buffaloes left four starters in all game.
“What we’ve realized throughout this season is that we have depth in this team,” Taylor said. “Even subs are able to come onto the field and make a difference, and they’ve done that in every game, whether they’re coming in at forward, midfield or defense.”
The Cardinal’s starters had their time to shine as well. When Colorado goalie Kayla Millar seemed to mishit a long pass, junior midfielder Marjani Hing-Glover grabbed the ball near midfield, deked around a defender and curled one in to the far post in 10:13 into the game. Just three minutes later, an Ubogagu feed found Taylor—who had been barely stopped twice already, once by the crossbar and once by Millar on a point-blank attempt—alone on goal, and this time, Taylor buried the shot for her third goal of the weekend.
Stanford wouldn’t get on the board again in the first frame despite dominating the shot clock 16-2. But only 49 seconds after coming into the middle of the second half, redshirt sophomore defenseman Annie Case launched a perfect cross through the box to find a waiting Taylor at the back post for the senior’s 14th of the season.
With the game out of reach, Ratcliffe was able to bring in Dickerson yet again between the goal posts. Overcoming a slight glitch in a 74th-minute penalty shot goal by the Buffs—both of the last two scores allowed by the Cardinal have come on penalties to a backup goaltender—Stanford kept working hard, netting its fourth goal on a scrum in the box when sophomore forward Sydney Payne sent home a rebound off the crossbar.
But whatever confidence the Cardinal may draw from the rude awakening it sent to the new Pac-12 schools this weekend will have to be tempered quickly, with the showdown against No. 23 Oregon State looming. Play will begin at 7 p.m. Friday in Corvallis, Ore. in the most significant test for Stanford in its final three regular-season games.