Stanford players couldn’t help but smile when the final horn sounded, running single-file along Cagan Stadium’s fence to high-five their supporters. They had just successfully extended their season-opener winning streak to 16 games.
On a warm Palo Alto Thursday night, No. 21 Stanford women’s soccer (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosted Sacramento State (0-1, 0-0 Big Sky) for the team’s first match of the 2022 season. Dominating possession all night long, the Cardinal cruised to a 5-0 victory.
“It feels great,” said junior forward Samantha Williams. “It’s been too long. Under the lights too. It’s a great feeling.”
Stanford wasted no time in its first outing since falling to Santa Clara (0-0, 0-0 WCC) in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Junior midfielder Amy Sayer got things started in the 15th minute, rifling a shot across the box to get the Cardinal on the board for the first time this season.
A few more opportunities followed quickly for Stanford, but to no avail. As the saying goes, however, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Freshman forward Lumi Kostmayer took that to heart in her first career game. After coming up short on a pair of lightly contested shots inside the box, the forward earned the first goal of her young career after intercepting a pass intended for the keeper and chipping the ball in.
Kostmayer’s thought process after missing the first two shots? “Just forget about it,” she said. “Goldfish mentality. Just wait for the next one and then hopefully capitalize on it the next time.”
Prior to the season, head coach Paul Ratcliffe vocalized his high expectations for the team’s talented freshman class. And on Thursday night, he saw what he was hoping for, in part due to Kostmayer’s contributions.
“To score in your first game, your debut, is amazing for Lumi,” Ratcliffe said. “I’m so proud of her and happy for her. And I think the other freshmen were knocking on the door with some really close opportunities. You always want to see them get that first goal. It’s really something they’ll always hold with them the rest of their lives.”
The Cardinal continued to bring the heat offensively late into the half, as a goal from Williams with 30 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal a 3-0 lead. Defensively, the team put on a display: the Hornets were only able to get one shot off in the first half.
However, the start of the second half was a different story for Stanford. After a few opportunities to begin the period, the Cardinal offense began to stall — at least compared to their earlier play, in which they had 24 shots in the first 55 minutes.
“That beginning of the second half we were a little quiet, trying to feel our way again and get things going,” Ratcliffe said. “But I think we had some really good passing. It was, we just didn’t capitalize. “
The scoring drought was largely due to Sacramento State goalkeeper Mia Shalit. The junior finished the day with 15 saves, 10 of which came in the second half and were impressive enough to warrant “ooh’s,” and “aah’s,” from even the Stanford student section. Meanwhile, Stanford goalkeepers collected zero saves on the day. It’s tough to blame them — the Hornets finished the game without a single shot on goal.
Shalit’s strong performance could only slow down the Cardinal attack for so long. A yellow card in the 82nd minute from Sacramento State’s Ali Fuamatu-Ma’afala was enough to reignite Stanford’s energy. Just one minute later, junior midfielder Julia Leontini headed a corner kick from Williams to give the Cardinal their first score in 38 minutes. Shortly after in the 89th minute, Williams added in another goal for good measure to put the game away, 5-0 in favor of Stanford.
“We weren’t satisfied,” Williams said. “We wanted to get more. And so we were continuing to push. And to get those extra two goals was great, but I think we know we can do better.”
Beyond being the first game of the season, this game had extra meaning to the Stanford program and community. This was the first time Stanford had taken the field since the passing of their captain, Katie Meyer.
The Cardinal took the field before the match sporting warmup shirts saying “Mental Health Matters.”
“It’s really important to us,” Ratcliffe said. “Last year was a tough year for us. And, you know, you realize how important mental health is because we were blindsided by what went on. So we definitely want to get the message out there that it’s something really meaningful and that we should be making sure everyone’s mental health is okay.”
After a somber offseason for the locker room, charging forward was a demonstration of the team’s full strength and courage. “We had spoke about it so much through, you know, leading up to this,” Ratcliffe said. ”And it’s something that’s always on our minds, obviously it it’s in our hearts forever now. I think [the team] dealt with it really well and in a positive manner, but obviously we’re always thinking about Katie and her family.”
Up next, Stanford will return to the pitch to face what might be their toughest opponent of the season. On Sunday, the Cardinal welcome the Chinese National Team to Cagan Stadium for an already sold-out match. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT.