To cap off its already successful regular season, No. 3 Stanford women’s soccer (16-2, 9-0 Pac-12) will take on No. 20 California (13-5-2, 6-4) for Senior Night at home on Friday.
The Cardinal are coming off a 2-0 victory over UCLA on Sunday that clinched the 2015 Pac-12 title for them. Although the Bruin defense held up for over 60 minutes, the relentless pressure that the Stanford offense put on was too much for UCLA. Goals from sophomore forward Kyra Carusa and junior forward Megan Turner pushed the Card to victory, securing the program’s 10th conference title.
The team’s title is well earned, as over the course of the season it has been dominating the pace and course of games, outshooting opponents by a margin of 345 to 109.
And while earlier in the season the team had trouble capitalizing on its myriad opportunities, in recent games the offense has become more of a team effort, not just relying on fifth-year senior Haley Rosen or sophomore Andi Sullivan to drive and score. Both have 5 goals apiece, but 10 players on the Cardinal roster have scored at least twice this year.
“The strength of this team is the word team,” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “Different players have stepped up in different games. Midfielders are scoring, defenders are scoring.”
Friday’s game will be important for the Card for a few reasons. It is the last chance for Stanford to tune up before it begins the most important journey of its season: the NCAA tournament. It will also showcase two teams in the fierce, historic Cal-Stanford rivalry. Finally, it will be the last regular season home game for the team’s four seniors.
In order to keep up its 10 game winning streak, Stanford will look to its underclassmen to continue to play an integral part on both sides of the ball. For example, all of the five freshman field players, Michelle Xiao, Jordan DiBiasi, Alana Cook, Tegan McGrady and Averie Collins, have scored game-winning goals this season.
Cook also joins junior captain Maddie Bauer as the base for the strong Cardinal defense. Their high-pressure style and strong communication have held opponents to only 10 goals in their 18 games.
As the offense begins to capitalize on more opportunities and the defense continues its consistently strong play, the Cardinal seem poised to play deep into the NCAA tournament. To achieve their goal of winning a national title, more than just good play will be needed. The players will have to tap into their hidden reserves of determination and mental toughness to give the team the edge any champion needs to compete.
However, Cal, coming off a 1-0 loss to USC on its own Senior Night game, will be looking to have a strong finish to its season before the playoffs as well. With an offense led by the prolific Arielle Ship, who has scored an astounding 14 goals this season, the Bears will be hungry to take down the now-reigning Pac-12 champions.
While allowing nearly twice the amount of shots as the Card (207-109), the Bears have put up an impressive defensive effort thus far this season, only allowing 12 goals in their 20 games this season. In addition, their offense has also produced 33 goals this season.
Their issue, it seems, is that they lack consistency. For example, the Bears beat UCLA 7-0 on Oct. 29, but lost 1-0 to unranked Washington a week before on Oct. 23. For Cal to contend against a talented Stanford team, it will need to bring the same style of play that blew out the Bruins.
The two teams will face off this Friday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. in Cagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Yousef Hindy at yhindy ‘at’ stanford.edu.