The last six NorPac women’s field hockey finals have featured Bay Area rivals Stanford and Cal. This season, only one-half of the field was the same as No. 14 Stanford took on upstart Liberty University. The unfamiliar opponent didn’t faze the Cardinal (15-6, 6-0 NorPac) as it posted a 3-0 win to earn its fifth NorPac title in six years.
Stanford reached the conference final by first rolling through Radford and Cal.
In the opening round on Thursday afternoon in Farmville, Va., Stanford beat Radford 2-0 in a game that was much more lopsided than the score showed. The Cardinal outshot the Highlanders 31-4 and held a 17-2 advantage in penalty corners. Only Radford goalie Sidney Encarnacion’s 11 saves kept the game close.
In the 39th minute Stanford finally cashed in when sophomore defender Kelsey Harbin scored from a penalty corner. Junior Hope Burke and freshman Maddie Secco were credited with assists.
Becky Dru closed out the game when she scored on her ninth shot of the game with less than five minutes remaining. Secco and junior Elise Ogle assisted the play.
On Friday, Stanford defeated Cal for the third time this season to advance to the final. With the win, the Cardinal earned a measure of revenge. The Golden Bears took last year’s championship with a 1-0 victory over Stanford in the final.
The Cardinal offense, paced by Burke’s second hat trick of the season, exploded to score five unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 victory,
The junior attacker’s first goal came in the 22nd minute with an assist from Harbin. Junior defender Anna Simmons then scored her first career goal just before halftime to give the Cardinal a 2-0 lead heading into the break.
Burke added two more goals early in the second half, sandwiched around another goal from Harbin, to push the lead to 5-0.
For the final nineteen minutes of the game, the Golden Bears played with an empty net in an attempt to get back into the game. Cal broke Stanford’s scoreless streak in the 62nd minute, but Ogle immediately answered with an unassisted goal. A late Cal score from midfielder Shannon Elmitt proved inconsequential to the result.
The Cardinal completed a tough stretch of three games in three days with a dominating 3-0 win over Liberty. Although this was the Flames’ second season overall and first playing in the conference, Liberty entered the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
Stanford continued to be successful on offense as 10 different players attempted a shot for the Cardinal. With less than a minute remaining before halftime, sophomore midfielder Alex McCawley sent a cross in to Secco. The freshman then fired the ball past Liberty goalkeeper Mallory Cuccio to give the Cardinal the lead.
Immediately after halftime, McCawley registered her second assist on a deep pass to freshman Lauren Becker, who finished from the right side. The Cardinal iced the game on a penalty corner that led to a goal by Dru. It was the senior captain’s team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Freshman goalkeeper Dulcie Davies recorded her seventh shutout of the season to help lead the Cardinal to the title.
The NorPac All-Tournament Team was also announced after the game. Stanford senior Becky Dru was named tournament MVP while Harbin, McCawley and Davies also earned All-Tournament recognition.
Earlier in the week, the All-NorPac awards were handed out with heavy representation from the Cardinal. Dru was named Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, Harbin claimed Defensive Player of the Year and head coach Tara Danielson repeated as Coach of the Year. Burke, Davies, McCawley and Secco also were also named to the All-Conference team.
The Cardinal now moves on to the NCAA tournament play-in game, which will be held on Tuesday again from Farmville. Stanford will face off against MAC champion Miami (OH) to earn a spot in the championship field. Stanford is 3-1 all-time in NCAA play-in games but has never won an NCAA tournament match.