The seniors on the Cardinal women’s soccer team may be coming off two consecutive conference championships, but as they demonstrated definitively last weekend, their motivation still hasn’t faltered. And in clinching its third conference title in a row, Stanford (18-0-1, 10-0-0 Pac-12) needed its seniors more than ever to come through in the clutch to secure wins at Oregon State and Oregon.
For the second consecutive weekend, the No. 1 Cardinal was propelled to victory by a two-goal performance by a senior—not once, but twice—with forward Lindsay Taylor and midfielder Teresa Noyola each accounting for a pair of scoring strikes against the Beavers (12-5-1, 6-3-0) and Ducks (8-9-2, 3-6-1), respectively. Taylor’s third consecutive two-goal game on Friday put her season tally at 16, double her total from just three weeks ago, while Noyola is now approaching her second consecutive 10-goal season.
All this, just months after a preseason injury to junior Courtney Verloo seemed to shift the scoring burden to Stanford’s youth. But despite the impressive play of freshman forward Chioma Ubogagu and others, the upperclassmen have been the ones picking up the slack as of late.
The pressure was on against No. 19 Oregon State, the Cardinal’s final obstacle to a conference title for the second season in a row. Last year, a third-minute goal by senior forward Christen Press—her first of two on the night—set the tone for a hard-fought 2-0 Stanford victory to clinch the Pac-10. This time around it was the Beavers who got off to a quick start, however, and a fourth-minute goal by sophomore forward Jenna Richardson put the Cardinal behind for just the second time this season.
It took until the second half for Stanford to respond, when Taylor netted one of her characteristic top-shelf goals from the top of the penalty area in the 55th minute. Just 11 minutes later, she added another from 16 yards out to put the Cardinal ahead.
Stanford’s work wasn’t done yet, though, in a rough and rainy match that allowed the Cardinal to substitute only four players—a far cry from the droves of alternates who had seen playing time in less tense victories. Sophomore goalkeeper Emily Oliver was forced to make four saves, including one off an early strike from senior midfielder Ashley Seal that would have put the Beavers up 2-0.
Withstanding the pressure, Stanford was able to secure its third straight Pac-12 (or Pac-10) title, becoming just the second school in conference history to do so. (UCLA held at least a share of the title for six straight years, from 2003-08, until the Cardinal broke the streak.)
That realization might have slowed Stanford down a little bit on Sunday in Eugene, and while the Cardinal got out of town with a comfortable 2-0 victory, head coach Paul Ratcliffe noted after the game that the energy level may have been lacking. He had strong basis for his opinion: Stanford’s total of eight shots was the smallest output of the season, with the previous low (12) coming against a stingy UCLA defense.
Half of the Cardinal’s shots came from Noyola, who benefited from a long pass from junior defender Alina Garciamendez—Noyola’s teammate on Mexico’s World Cup team last summer—to set up a wide-open shot in the 14th minute. Noyola’s second tally came early in the second half on a high feed from junior midfielder Mariah Nogueira, and the senior also took Stanford’s only other shot of the second frame in the 64th minute.
The Cardinal can’t afford another lull if it wants to close the season on a high note, with the rivalry matchup against California set for Saturday. The No. 22 Bears (12-5-2, 5-3-2) fell to Oregon State but played much more impressive soccer against the Ducks than Stanford did, benefiting from a hat trick by sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick.
The Cardinal and Bears will meet at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the regular season finale.