Jordan DiBiasi’s back-heel goal in the 62nd minute was enough to give No. 4 Stanford women’s soccer (15-2, 9-0 Pac-12) a 1-0 win over No. 16 USC (12-5, 7-2) on a chilly Thursday night at home. The win clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 title for the Cardinal, the first time they have topped the conference since 2012.
With so much on the line, both teams came out with intensity. The Trojans, in particular, came out with high energy, often winning the ball from the Cardinal with a strong press.
The Cardinal experienced several close calls throughout the first half, most notably when junior goalkeeper Jane Campbell came to the edge of the box to block an oncoming attacker’s shot. USC then won the rebound, and, pressured by Stanford defense, kicked the ball above the crossbar.
Though the Trojans certainly had their chances in the first half, the Cardinal were also pushing up against the Trojan defense with full force and speed, taking shots from various positions across the field.
One of USC’s main strengths is its goalie, Sammy Jo Prudhomme, who had an 83.9 percent save average before tonight’s game. Despite taking a lot of shots, Stanford seemed unable to challenge Prudhomme, as its shots were flying over the crossbar and even hitting the goal post.
“I knew it was going to be difficult for us to score on them because they are well-organized and have some talented players and a good goalkeeper,” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe.
This knowledge allowed him to plan ahead and prepare his team to take more aggressive chances.
The Cardinal came out after halftime with renewed energy. They shot twice over the crossbar in the 49th and 53rd minutes. A shot on the Trojan goal came in the 57th minute, but was easily saved.
Stanford seemed unable to finish its plays until the 62nd minute, when DiBiasi, a freshman midfielder, received an exquisitely-placed pass from fifth-year senior Haley Rosen. Rosen, whose sister Nikki came in as a substitute for the Trojans, made a confident run down the right side and passed the ball toward the front of goal. As the ball hit the ground, DiBiasi reacted quickly and hit it into the net with the back of her heel for her third goal of the season.
“They came out, they pressured us really hard, and then we got into the groove of it,” DiBiasi said. “We started communicating, we started solving the puzzles, finding the open players. Once we did that we were able to break them down.”
Undeterred by USC’s physical play and added aggression, the Cardinal dominated the second half of the game, with five shot attempts in the last 15 minutes of play, comparing to the Trojans’ four during the entirety of the half.
“They were pretty direct tonight,” said senior defender Laura Liedle about the USC offense. “We were able to handle that. We were ready, I think.”
As Stanford’s season is coming to an end, the Cardinal face two more Pac-12 opponents before the NCAA tournament begins. The Cardinal is looking to finish off their season strong, and a victory against UCLA (8-7, 4-3) would help their momentum as they prepare for the NCAA tournament.
Though UCLA’s offense generates plenty of shots (217 this season), the Bruins have only been able to convert those shots into 23 goals. Despite a couple of unstable moments, Stanford’s defense has been performing extremely well, shutting down opponents with physical strength and good communication.
The Cardinal’s main challenge will be finishing plays and putting the ball into the net. UCLA’s goalie, Siri Ervik, has been saving 73.7 percent of her shots, outdoing Campbell’s 71.4 percent. The team will have to work hard to place its shots well, something that the Cardinal have been struggling with as of late.
The Cardinal take on the Bruins on Sunday, Nov. 1 at 3:30 p.m. at Cagan Stadium.
Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’ stanford.edu.