After a weekend that featured two solid wins on the road in Michigan, the No. 6 Stanford women’s field hockey team is gearing up to host the 2011 NorPac Conference Tournament this week, starting Thursday and running through Saturday.
The top-seeded Cardinal’s (15-2, 6-0 NorPac) excitement was palpable among the players with this week’s kick-off to a much anticipated post-season.
As the four-time defending champions of the NorPac tourney with a perfect regular-season conference record, it would be understandable if the team felt some pressure heading into this weekend. The Cardinal, however, seems unfazed.
“Heading into the NorPac tournament as four-time defending champions is obviously an honor, but it doesn’t place any more pressure on us,” said sophomore attacker Hope Burke. “We want to win another NorPac championship, but instead of focusing on a number, we are focusing on playing as a team and executing in the postseason.”
This past weekend’s wins against Michigan St. and No. 7 Michigan also seemed to have helped calm the Card before the start of the tourney.
“I feel like this weekend was a turning point for us because we realized that we are capable of going as far as we want to go as long as we play together and stick to the game plan,” Burke explained. “These wins also re-energized the team and sparked a new passion, and I am excited to bring this new mentality to the games this weekend.”
This “new mentality” will be key, as the winners of the tournament will earn a spot in a play-in game for the NCAA Championship Tournament. Burke said that this is of the utmost importance to the team.
“Then we’ll be one step closer to returning to the NCAA Tournament. Performing this weekend is what we have been practicing for the past three months. The time is now.”
Also up for grabs is a Stanford field hockey single-season record for most wins, which this season’s team is only three wins away from obtaining. But as Burke revealed, this record is not a main concern for the team.
“It would be awesome to break the single season record,” she said, “but that’s not what’s really in our minds.”
The Cardinal’s first game of the tournament, set for Thursday at 1:30 p.m., shouldn’t be much of a challenge as they take on the Mountaineers of Appalachian State (2-16, NorPac 1-5), a team that has been outscored 23-77 by its opponents. With the Card’s precision handling and fierce shooting average of 17.1 shots per game compared to the Mountaineers’ 8.7, the team shouldn’t need to rely on home field advantage for the win.
The winner of this game will go on to face the winner of the Davidson College (10-7, 4-2 NorPac) vs. UC-Davis (4-11, 2-4 NorPac) matchup in the semifinals on Friday, also at 1:30 p.m. The championship game is set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Stanford will take on Appalachian State in the first round of the NorPac Championship on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 1:30 p.m. at the Varsity Turf.