The No. 6 Stanford field hockey team can no longer lay claim to the NorPac title after this weekend’s disappointing loss to its cross-bay rival, No. 16 California (16-3, 4-2 NorPac), in the NorPac Tournament final.
As the four-time defending champ of the NorPac Tournament, the Cardinal (17-3, 6-0) was expected to sweep this weekend and win the NCAA Play-In game slot, but things did not go as planned.
The weekend started off well enough as the Card easily defeated Appalachian State (2-18, 1-5) on Thursday with a 7-0 win.
The match was characterized by total Cardinal domination. The Card only allowed five Mountaineer shots the entire match compared to 30 of its own, and managed to gain 12 penalty corners while granting the Mountaineers just four.
The seven goals of the game came from five different Cardinal players: redshirt sophomore defender Colleen Ryan, redshirt junior attacker Katie Mitchell, junior defender Becky Dru, redshirt sophomore attacker Emily Henriksson and redshirt junior attacker Devon Holman, who earned a hat trick.
With the textbook win on Thursday, the Cardinal headed into Friday’s match against Davidson (8-7-3, 3-2-2) with an expectation to win the semifinal. Though the team performed well, winning 6-2, Friday’s game showed some signs that the Card’s command of the NorPac Tournament was slipping.
In the first minute of play, Davidson’s Christine Rua scored to put the Wildcats up 1-0. Not since the Card’s 6-3 loss to New Hampshire on Oct. 9 had the Cardinal allowed its opponent to score first. It was just the fourth time this season that this occurred.
The Cardinal then answered with a goal by Dru and assists from sophomore attacker Hope Burke and senior attacker Stephanie Byrne. The goal was scored off one of the Card’s eight penalty corners for the day.
The Card scored again in the 13th minute with an unassisted goal from Henriksson. But then Rua answered with her second goal of the match scored off a penalty corner.
In the minutes that followed, the Cardinal appeared to struggle as it failed to capitalize on Davidson’s sloppy play in the circle that resulted in four penalty corners in four minutes.
As the first half closed out, the Card was able to correct its mistakes and score three goals, one by freshman attacker Alex McCawley and two by Byrne, with assists from McCawley and sophomore attacker Courtney Haldeman.
In the second half, McCawley scored twice more, assisted by Holman and Haldeman, but the Cardinal was unable to score off its last eight shots. This inability to score on set-pieces and sloppy shooting would follow the Cardinal into the final.
On Saturday the Cardinal headed into the final against its rival, Cal. Again, Stanford was expected to win, as it had already beaten the Golden Bears twice in the regular season and had home-field advantage. But those factors just weren’t enough for the Cardinal.
The only goal scored during the match was in the fifth minute by Cal’s Erin Magill off a penalty corner.
The rest of the game was a disappointing show for both teams on offense. During the match, three green cards and two yellow cards were handed out, with Cal receiving the two yellows and two of the greens.
The Card’s play really broke down as it just couldn’t convert any scoring opportunities into goals. In the 67th minute, redshirt senior goalkeeper Ale Moss was pulled in order to attempt a final offensive push, but nothing resulted from this strategic change-up.
In the opposing goal, Cal keeper Maddie Hand had an impressive day, racking up nine saves in the win.
With the loss to Cal, the fate of the Cardinal’s postseason is up in the air. Stanford is now vying for an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament and will learn its postseason fate when the NCAA selection committee makes its final picks Tuesday night.