Laird Q. Cagan Stadium collectively stood in a stunned silence. The crowd had just minutes earlier been furiously cheering for a comeback from its beloved home team, yelling and groaning with every missed opportunity for the Cardinal.
But for the first time in more than half a decade, the comeback never came. A shell-shocked Cardinal team walked off of the field in silence as the truth sank in for all 1,701 people in attendance: The streak was over.
When the final whistle blew with the scoreboard displaying “Arizona State: 1, Stanford: 0” on Sunday night, the Cardinal had just lost at home for the first time since November 2007 — a span of 73 matches, the second-longest such streak in NCAA history. Stanford’s 44-match conference winning streak was also snapped as it dropped a Pac-12 contest for the first time since 2008 against UCLA.
With the loss on Sunday, No. 2 Stanford (9-1-1, 2-1 Pac-12) split the weekend’s two matches against the Arizona schools after having claimed a 2-1 overtime victory against Arizona (5-3-3, 0-2) on Friday afternoon.
The Cardinal first welcomed Arizona to the Farm on Friday for its home opener and the first of a five-match conference homestand. Stanford did not come out of the gate with its usual control as it allowed Arizona to control the ball throughout the first half.
However, the Cardinal broke through in the 37th minute when senior forward Sydney Payne beat a defender and supplied a perfect cross that freshman forward Megan Turner headed into the net for her first collegiate goal.
After the half, the Cardinal dominated possession but couldn’t put the game away. The Wildcats scored the equalizer in the 78th minute off an intercepted pass; Arizona junior forward Emily Lai eventually punched into the back of the net to knot the match at one goal apiece. The match was forced into overtime after neither team could pull ahead in the remaining minutes of regulation.
And then, for the 10th time this season, junior forward Taylor Uhl came through for the Cardinal in a big way. The Cardinal took control in the overtime, locking down possession of the ball as Stanford outshot Arizona five to zero — three of which were by Uhl.
After missing high and wide right the first two times, Uhl connected on her third attempt with just eight seconds remaining in the first overtime. She absorbed a long pass and set herself up before sending a sliding shot inside the right post for the golden goal and a Stanford victory.
“Taylor has an incredible ability to slow the play down,” head coach Paul Ratcliffe told GoStanford.com. “A lot of people would rush that shot, but Taylor always shows great composure and was rewarded with the goal.”
After its overtime victory over the Wildcats, the Cardinal faced its other Arizona test on Sunday evening when it hosted Arizona State (7-4, 2-1), which was coming off a tough loss to UC-Berkeley in the first match of its five-match road trip.
Sunday’s match started off in a manner strikingly similar to Friday’s, with Stanford looking particularly shaky in the first half. The Cardinal could never settle into a groove due to Arizona State’s aggressiveness on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense.
“I think Arizona State was hungry,” said Ratcliffe after the match. “They had great energy; I think we still looked a little tired and didn’t have the intensity necessary to win a big Pac-12 game.”
The Sun Devils’ defenders played Stanford close all evening, limiting pass opportunities and not giving the Cardinal players any space with which to create opportunities. Stanford only mustered six shots in the first half — compared to Arizona State’s 11 — and was unable to consistently keep the ball away from its half of the field. Freshman goalkeeper Jane Campbell’s first-half saves kept the Sun Devils from capitalizing on its opportunities.
Although she made five saves in the first half, Campbell couldn’t get to one ball before it got past her — the lone, decisive goal in a hard-fought match.
In the 24th minute, Sun Devils sophomore midfielder Tommi Goodman found sophomore forward Sara Tosti open 25 yards from Stanford’s goal. Tosti promptly shot the ball past the arms of Campbell and into the top right corner of the goal for her third goal of the season and an early 1-0 Arizona State lead.
One goal was all the Sun Devils would need to upset the No. 2 team in the nation, as their defense bent but did not break in the second half.
Stanford took 13 shots on goal and kept the ball on Arizona State’s half of the pitch for most of the second half but could never find an opening to capitalize. Sun Devil goalkeeper Chandler Morris made five big saves after the half to keep the Cardinal off of the board.
The Cardinal took three corner kicks and three shots in the final 10 minutes as it looked to make a final comeback, but after Uhl’s shot in the 87th minute went high and Arizona State got the ball away from its half of the field with precious seconds bleeding off of the clock, Stanford couldn’t find an opening and the final whistle blew to seal the Cardinal’s fate.
When asked after the match whether the loss would affect the team’s mentality moving forward, Ratcliffe was unsure. In the aftermath of the loss his words indicated that he recognized the significance of the streak coming to an end.
“I think this will be a test of their character, to see what they’re made of for sure,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s been amazing, the track record we’ve had. You know, someone just told me I hadn’t lost since 2007. It’s truly amazing. I don’t think it’ll be ever repeated in this era of soccer.”
Stanford will look to bounce back when the Cardinal welcomes UCLA to the farm Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.