Even with the NCAA tournament all but officially out of reach, Stanford men’s soccer will get to end its season with a meaningful game as they travel to Berkeley to face the rival Golden Bears today.
Stanford (8-8-1, 4-4-1 Pac-12) is coming off an impressive 4-0 thrashing of San Diego State, which allowed the team to take out its frustration after a heart-breaking overtime loss at UCLA the week before. In both of those games, the Cardinal has displayed some of its best play this season and will look to continue this trend going into the season finale.
“We’ve been playing some great soccer and now we’re looking forward to the last match against Cal. We’ll be excited to play again this week,” head coach Jeremy Gunn told GoStanford.com.
There are few better conclusions to a Stanford athlete’s career than a victory over the Golden Bears, and seniors Dersu Abolfathi, Eric Anderson, Hunter Gorskie and Adam Jahn will get a chance to do just that. Abolfathi and Jahn both found the back of the net in the San Diego State match, with Jahn picking up his team-leading 10th goal of the season, the program’s largest scoring outburst since Roger Levesque netted 14 in 2001.
Sophomore forward Zach Batteer will also play a critical role for the Cardinal offense. Last time Stanford matched up with Cal, Batteer scored both goals in a 2-0 home victory and won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. If he and Jahn can continue to play well together on the attack, Stanford will certainly find its share of chances on goal.
Converting these chances will prove crucial on Friday. In a host of games this season, Stanford has played a full 90 minutes of convincing soccer, controlling the match and dominating nearly every statistical category, but failed to cash in on their good play to get the right result.
Cal has scored only three goals in their last four games and will be looking to their top scorers, senior midfielder Tony Salciccia and sophomore forward Stefano Bonomo, to bring the offense back to life. So far this season, Bonomo and Salciccia have each netted five goals with Salciccia responsible for the assist on five more.
The Bears are hoping to earn a bid in the NCAA tournament, and a win Friday could be critical to their case with the tournament selection committee. Cal’s only hope is for an at-large bid, because UCLA has already secured the Pac-12’s automatic berth.
Stanford’s own drive for the tournament was most likely stopped in its tracks last week by a double-overtime defeat against the Bruins. Nevertheless, nothing is impossible, as the selection committee never fails to surprise.
None of this will matter, though, once the opening whistle blows. The calculations of rankings and RPIs will disappear, and the focus will shift to the rivalry at hand. The only thing running through the Stanford players’ minds will be: beat Cal.
Kickoff from Edwards Stadium is slated for 1:30 p.m.