The Stanford women’s soccer team will continue its quest for a fourth-straight conference crown tonight when it welcomes Oregon State to campus in the second of a three-game homestand; the final contest in the series will be against Oregon on Sunday.
The No. 2 Cardinal (7-1-1) holds an 18-1 all-time lead against the No. 23 Beavers (9-1-0), including a current eight-game streak since the single loss in Corvallis, Ore., in 2003. The reigning national champion, Stanford has also gone without a conference loss in over three years and none of OSU’s current players have ever tasted victory over the Card.
However, besides Oregon State’s narrowly better record so far this season, the Beavers will represent the toughest test for the Card since Boston College held it to a 1-1 tie on the Farm at the end of August. OSU arrives on a streak of five wins and the best start in the program’s history.
The Beavers’ opened their Pac-12 campaign last weekend by defeating Utah 2-0 in Corvallis. Junior forward Jenna Richardson starred on offense, recording all five of OSU’s shots on goal and scoring both goals, one in the first half, one in the second. In defense, freshman goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme recorded her third shutout out of just four games played. Though Utah actually outshot Oregon State 16-13, Prudhomme kept her team ahead with nine crucial saves.
For their efforts, Oregon State’s pair swept last week’s Pac-12 honors, Richardson taking home Player of the Week and Prudhomme earning Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Stanford, meanwhile, struggled in the first half of its opening Pac-12 game against Arizona State on Sunday. The Sun Devils played a physical game that stifled their opposition and came close to taking the lead just before the break, but the Cardinal survived. After the difficult start Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe made several changes for the second period, including giving last season’s regular goalkeeper junior Emily Oliver her first minutes this year after recovering from injury. His tactics worked and the Card returned rejuvenated after halftime to eventually win comfortably 3-0.
The fact that Sunday’s goals came from three different players, junior forward Natalie Griffen, redshirt junior forward Courtney Verloo and junior forward Taylor McCann highlights one of the key differences between last season and this one. The last time these two teams met on Oct. 28 last year Stanford’s forward Lindsay Taylor ‘12 overturned an early OSU lead with two goals that won the contest 2-1 and clinched the Pac-12 title.
Taylor was last season’s top scorer, with 20 goals, but her graduation leaves no clear goal-scoring leader in the team. Currently Griffen is in the lead with five goals, ahead of junior forward Sydney Payne and senior midfielder Mariah Nogueira, who each have four.
If the goals keep coming, then perhaps Ratcliffe will not need to find a clear goal scorer and can settle for scoring by committee; in the last five games Stanford has netted 15 unanswered goals from eight different players.
There is, however, much work to be done if the Card wants to again lift both the Pac-12 and national championship trophies. Several key players have recently returned to the squad, including Oliver from injury and sophomore forward Chioma Ubogagu from national duties for the winning U.S. team at the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. While they will strengthen Ratcliffe’s hand, perhaps last Sunday’s first half shows that the team has not yet clicked back into the well-oiled machine that went undefeated throughout last season.
The contest between Stanford and Oregon State will kick off at 6 p.m. at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.