The No. 6 Stanford women’s lacrosse team dropped its first two games of the season over the weekend, losing at home for the first time in more than a year.
The Cardinal held its own in the first half of Friday night’s eventual 18-6 loss to No. 1 Northwestern, the defending national champion, with Stanford’s backfield standing strong against the Wildcats’ relentless attack. Sophomore goalkeeper Lyndsey Muñoz had eight of her career-high 13 saves, and the defense forced seven turnovers. Despite outshooting Stanford 19-8 and winning every draw control, Northwestern only led 7-4 at the half.
After the break, the Cardinal defense held the Wildcats scoreless for eight minutes, keeping its upset hopes alive. Northwestern, winner of six of the last seven NCAA titles, finally broke through with 21:39 left in the game. The team scored three more times before Stanford sophomore Anna Kim eventually found the net with 13:14 remaining. Freshman Hannah Farr provided the lone other goal for the Card, while the Wildcats added seven more.
Northwestern played a much cleaner game overall, committing a total of 12 fouls and 14 turnovers to Stanford’s 34 and 20, respectively. The Cardinal did pick up six draw controls but could not convert on those possessions.
Sunday’s game proved to be a better match, but Stanford again failed to find the win column, falling to No. 18 Ohio State 14-10. This time, the team struggled with possession in the first half but did score on four of its six shots. Senior Catherine Swanson scored twice early on, while Farr and senior Maria Fortino added the final two. Stanford went into halftime trailing 7-4 for the second time in as many games.
The Cardinal offense returned to the field ready to play and tied the score less than three minutes in. Senior Anna Boeri scored right away off an assist from her sister, Emilie, who then also scored. Kim added the last goal to make it 7-7.
Ohio State answered with three straight goals of its own, and the Cardinal never bounced back. Although the Cardinal outshot the Buckeyes by a 22-11 margin in the second half, Stanford simply did not convert often enough to win. Sophomore Rachel Ozer, junior Carolyn Bradley and Swanson scored the last three goals, but the Card could not capture the lead. The last goal gave Swanson her first hat trick of the season.
Although this early struggle puts the usually dominant Cardinal into unfamiliar territory, the games provided the young team with valuable experience as it heads into another top-20 matchup this weekend against Notre Dame in South Bend.
Many Stanford players are starting for the first time, with several freshmen reserves seeing their first collegiate action. The inexperience should fall away as the season continues, and the team will undoubtedly benefit from competing against elite programs. Starting the season with such challenging games should only make Stanford more competitive in the coming weeks as it tries to win its eighth straight conference title and make its third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
“We learned a lot from the games this weekend,” said junior defender Nina Swanson. “Obviously the turnout wasn’t what we wanted, but it showed us what we have to work on for the upcoming games. We’re excited for Notre Dame.”