Women’s soccer blazes into NCAA Quarterfinals

Nov. 26, 2014, 12:19 p.m.
Lo'eau Labonta (21), Stanford W. Soccer defeats Oregon 1-0 in overtime on October 30, 2014 (Roger Chen)
Senior Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta scored both of the Cardinal’s goals in the two wins over Arkansas and Washington in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. (ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

With wins over No. 24 Arkansas on Friday and No. 10 Washington on Sunday, the No. 3 Stanford women’s soccer team continues its journey to its first NCAA title since 2011. The Cardinal now advance to the round of eight and will have their final home game of the year on Friday at Cagan Stadium against Florida.

On Friday, it wasn’t near the same offensive explosion that Stanford women’s soccer had in their first playoff game against Cal State Fullerton, but it will certainly do, as the Cardinal notched their second playoff victory against Arkansas. Senior Lo’eau LaBonta netted a penalty in the 24th minute and the Stanford defense, led by senior Hannah Farr, senior Kendall Romaine, sophomore Maddie Bauer and junior Laura Liedle held Arkansas to just 6 shots and only 2 in the second half to win their second tournament game and send them into the round of 16.

LaBonta on her penalty: “I usually take a deep breath and relax, because usually when people just rush to it, they may not get as good of a hit as usual. Washington…[sitting in the crowd after their victory and who faced the winner of this game]…was yelling ‘she’s going right’ so I was like, alright, I’m going to try and hit it left.”

Goalkeeper Jane Campbell was not without her own game-saving moments as well, keeping the game level after a few chaotic moments almost saw the game drawn level. First she knocked a looping header from an Arkansas attack over the bar mid-way through the second half. Moments later, perhaps against Arkansas’ best chance of the game, she kept cool as a ball was headed down in the box by an Arkansas forward and took a rolling deflection off of a Cardinal defender. The ball found a bit of space in the crowd and Stanford’s defenders looked as though they could not get to it before Arkansas’ star forward Ashleigh Ellenwood inside the five-yard box. Campbell would be called into action at the end of the game when an Arkansas through-ball looked as though it might find a lone forward with only her in front. She charged forward decisively to quickly end the attack that came close to the end of the game.

Although she did not score, senior forward Chi Obogagu again looked like an offensive force to be reckoned with and she is playing extraordinarily well when paired with Stanford’s leading scorer senior forward Taylor Uhl. Uhl was at the center of the game once more, earning yet another penalty in the 24th minute on one of her break-neck runs behind the defense. Although the Cardinal looked very sharp in possession, they also looked very comfortable sending balls from the back on counter-attacks to a sprinting Uhl.

Two things in particular stood out from the game. The first is the aggression of freshman midfielder Andi Sullivan on the ball who has shown no sign of being intimidated of her first post-season games. She made a number of charging runs from the midfield and created a plethora of chances with her skilled movements up from the center of the field. The second is the return to full-strength of LaBonta who has, more often than not, been one of the preeminent driving forces behind Stanford’s superb play all year long.

As she said with a wry smile: “I love being healthy. Being healthy is the best, my trainer loves not seeing me, which sounds terrible but we have a great relationship, I just don’t want to see her in the training room.”

Then on Sunday, another 1-0 win for the Stanford women’s soccer team came off of a 43rd minute penalty off of the foot of LaBonta at home against the Washington Huskies.

“It was funny, this time they [the Washington team] were all yelling this time ‘she’s going to the left’, so I was like, ‘alright, we’ll now I’ll go to the right’…But Megan Kufeld [is a] great keeper and I’ve played with her before and she got the block in, but I [thought]…this is going in some way… followed it up and tried to get it in there,” said LaBonta of her shot.

The game shared a number of parallels with Stanford’s last tournament game against Arkansas on Friday, far more than just the score and manner of scoring. Stanford outshot Washington 20-6 and has outshot their opponents 44-10 in those two games. They have been exceptional in almost every aspect of the game except for putting the ball in the back of the net. It hasn’t necessarily been accuracy in front of goal either.

On Sunday Washington forced 7 saves and as LaBonta pointed out, Kufeld was first-rate and the majority of those saves were not ones that would be made on a daily basis in the regular season. The midfielders and forwards have played very, very well, and senior midfielder Alex Doll and freshman midfielder Andi Sullivan played particularly well against the Huskies.

Overall the whole team, players coming in, made a difference in the game. There was one spell [at the start of] the second half when I thought we dropped a little bit and we weren’t keeping possession and playing our style, which was a little bit disappointing but I think they maybe got a little…uncertain…we need to get in the zone and play and get after it [in those situations],” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe.

Stanford takes on a feisty Florida this Friday at Cagan stadium in the final home-game of the season. The previous game against Florida came earlier this year on September 12th and was also played at Stanford. That game had a very similar feel to these past two; the Cardinal scored in overtime on a LaBonta penalty to win 1-0, but outshot the Gators 20-8 in the process. Campbell only had to make one save while Florida was forced into 6.

As Ratcliffe pointed out, “We’re getting amazing opportunities in both games and then a dominant performance overall. My hope is that we’re building up the goals for later on and maybe the next game we can put some away…When we do hit the back of the net, we can really hit our stride. I’m hoping we can get a bunch of goals instead of squeaking by with just one.”

The third ranked Stanford Cardinal plays their final game at Cagan Stadium of the season on Friday, November 28th at 7 p.m. as they square off against Florida in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

Contact Nic Radoff at nradoff ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

Nic Radoff '15 is now officially from Oakland and is a proud to be a history major and a Latin-American studies minor. Nic was a staff writer for women's soccer and follows football extensively, whether his editors let him write about it or not. He is a proud member of the men's club lacrosse team and invites you all to come watch most Saturdays, even though you might not see him on the field much. He enjoys spending time with his family, hiking with his husky Artoo, lamenting his A's and maintaining that things get better with age.

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