Facing the daunting prospect of being 1-2 to start Pac-12 play, the men’s soccer team stepped up in a big way, delivering a strong message with a 2-0 win over rival California on Thursday night.
Sophomore Zach Batteer continued his hot streak for the Cardinal (5-5, 2-1 Pac-12), scoring both goals to make it three total in the last week for the forward from Pittsburgh, Penn.
Batteer’s first strike of the night came at the death of the first half, as junior Tyler Conklin found senior Dersu Abolfathi on a nice run down the line. Abolfathi swung the ball in with his left foot and Batteer managed to head the ball past Cal’s keeper while falling away from goal—there were just 18 seconds remaining on the clock.
“Coach always tells us to work all 45 minutes,” Batteer said. “I felt we could put one in those last couple of minutes, and Dersu put a great ball in and I just managed to get a head to it. It was a great spark for the team going into the half.”
It was the release that an energetic crowd of 1,253 had been searching for, and they erupted as Batteer slid headlong toward the sideline in his celebration.
In the early going, however, Cal (6-4-1, 1-2) seemed to be getting the most dangerous chances. Stanford maintained possession a good amount—earning six corner kicks—and pestered Golden Bear goalie Kevin Peach into making three saves. But if not for some clutch work from junior goalie Drew Hutchins, the Cardinal would have been on the wrong side of the score.
Hutchins made five saves in the half, including a one-on-one opportunity that he parried out wide and a sprawling save to knock away a ball destined for the left corner of the net.
Head coach Jeremy Gunn appreciated the effort.
“Drew was busy back there tonight and he definitely earned the shutout,” Gunn said.
While Batteer’s goal took the wind out of the Bears’ sails, Stanford came out of the half and seemed a little tentative playing with the 1-0 lead. Cal continued to press as it looked for the equalizer, and the roles reversed, as Stanford was now the team slightly on its heels in defense and content to counterattack on offense.
Conklin nearly put Cal away with a driving ball from 30 yards out that went wide, but it didn’t happen until the 78th minute, when redshirt sophomore Bobby Edwards’ cross off the counter found Batteer in the middle for another header and the final score of the game.
“We opened up and [Eric] Verso made a great near-post run, the same thing we actually practice all the time, and I found some space on the back and buried it low and to the near post,” Batteer said.
Cal pressed even higher after the goal, and Stanford’s defense needed a couple of diving stops from Hutchins and some physical defensive work from senior captain Hunter Gorskie to preserve the shutout.
With the win, Stanford returned to .500 on the season and took another important step toward a postseason berth by moving up to second place in the Pac-12.
“It was a great result for the team tonight,” Gunn said. “Both teams had really great chances and it was exciting end-to-end soccer. They passed a little better than we did in the first half, and that has not happened to us much this year. The goal just before half helped us, and then we played much better in the second half.”
With the rest of the weekend off, Stanford returns to action next week as it heads to the Pacific Northwest for matches with Oregon State and Washington.