In what is sure to be a heated finale to an up-and-down regular season, No. 10 Stanford (13-4-1, 6-4-0 Pac-12) will face unranked rival Cal (10-4-5, 3-4-3 Pac-12) at home tonight.
The game will be Senior Night for the Cardinal in honor of the seven women in their senior seasons on the team. It will also be a critical match in determining the Cardinal’s confidence and placement going into the postseason.
Coming off of Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Washington State, which ended Stanford’s quest for a fifth consecutive Pac-12 Championship and dropped its ranking from No. 7 to No. 10, the Cardinal is looking to finish the season strong with a victory.
“It’s a little bit different of a situation than we’re used to because we have a couple of losses under our belt, but I think it’s good to get all that stuff out kind of before playoffs,” said senior defender Natalie Griffen. Griffen, who was just named as a Pac-12 All-Academic selection, will be one of the seniors honored tonight.
While the Cardinal has experienced an uncharacteristically disappointing season, the Bears have also had a rough patch over their last seven games. Cal was winless in its last six matches before finally getting a win against Washington this past Sunday. Stanford should be able to capitalize on this if the team comes out strong and scores early, as Cal is winless in two contests this season when scored on in the first half.
Of course, the focus of the match will be not only to win, but also to send the team’s seniors off on a high note after their final regular season game. Goalkeepers Aly Gleason and Emily Oliver, defender Natalie Griffen, midfielder Taylor McCann and forwards Shelby Payne, Sydney Payne and Courtney Verloo will all be honored during a pregame ceremony.
For the seniors, the mood is both reflective and happy.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person over the last four years at Stanford and this team has been my life for the last four years,” said Sydney Paine. “It’s sad that it’s over, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity, and I’m so excited to play tomorrow night and beat the Bears on Senior Night.”
Although this will be the first time any of the senior women will have finished a season at Stanford without being named conference champions, the team has its sights set on a larger goal right now.
“It’s nice to have, you know, the little trophy or the certificate or whatever,” Griffen said, “but at the end of the year it’s pretty trivial and all that really matters is: ‘Do you have the [national championship] ring?’ Before, we’ve had the Pac-12 trophy, but we still [didn’t] have the ring, and so I don’t think [not winning the conference] makes any difference.”
After finishing the regular season tonight, the team will begin preparing for the playoffs, as the postseason tournament selection takes place on Nov. 11. Stanford should host a first round match if the selection goes as expected, and hopes are high for the next chapter of the season.
“I think that the best is in front of the team this season,” said Sydney Payne. “I think that we’re getting better every game, and that’s what’s important at this point.”
The Cardinal kicks off its Senior Night match against the Cal Golden Bears at 7:30 p.m. at Cagan Stadium.
Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan ‘at’ stanford.edu.