Before the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) playoffs, Stanford lacrosse junior goalie Lyndsey Munoz reflected upon her first tournament experience. In 2011, the Cardinal went down 7-0 to Oregon early in the MPSF final before Munoz, who had seen minimal action all year, stepped in to spark a furious comeback that ended with a 12-10 Stanford win. The then-freshman was named tournament MVP for her seven-save performance.
“That was the first time as a freshman I got to see playing time,” Munoz said last week. “Tournament time means a lot to me because it’s where I started.”
In 2013, Munoz entered the postseason firmly entrenched as the Cardinal’s starter. But the drama—and most importantly, the result—was the same as Stanford (13-5, 6-2 MPSF) pulled off a narrow 7-6 victory over top-seeded Denver (17-2, 7-1 MPSF) to claim the conference championship on Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinal was led by an opportunistic attack and standout play from Munoz and the Stanford defense. The junior goalkeeper made 10 saves, including a stop of a Denver free-position attempt with 33 seconds remaining to maintain the slim lead.
“[Munoz] was really locked in all tournament so I hope this gives her a lot of confidence going into the NCAA Tournament,” Stanford head coach Amy Bokker told GoStanford.com. “She did awesome and was really focused, and knew she wanted to win a championship.”
At the other end of the field, midfielder Hannah Farr also stepped up on the big stage for the Cardinal. The sophomore scored two goals, picked up two ground balls and controlled two draws which, coupled with a four-goal performance against Cal in the semifinals, gave her the MPSF Tournament Most Outstanding Player award. She was joined on the all-tournament team by senior captain Elizabeth Adam, freshman Lucy Dikeou, junior captain Anna Kim and Munoz.
This was the eighth MPSF title in the past nine years for the Cardinal, which fell to Oregon 13-10 in last year’s championship game. With the win, the Cardinal claims an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. In the first round, unseeded Stanford will travel to Evanston, Ill., to face unseeded Notre Dame, with the winner taking on the host and two-time defending NCAA Champions, No. 2 Northwestern.
Coming into the game, No. 11 Denver boasted a 17-1 record that included a 14-10 victory over Stanford on April 5. But in the game that mattered most, the Cardinal knocked off the Pioneers in a close-fought battle.
“We really stuck to our game plan and worked those great possessions and waited for our opportunities,” Bokker told GoStanford.com.
The Cardinal took a 3-0 lead nine minutes into the game with goals from junior Rachel Ozer, Dikeou and Farr.
But Denver, which entered the game leading the conference in scoring with an average of 14.8 goals per game, would not be held down for long as the Pioneers responded with three straight goals of their own in an eight-minute span. Munoz made five saves in the final 8:28 of the half to keep the score locked at three until halftime.
The early part of the second half featured back and forth action as both teams traded two goals apiece. After Dikeou’s goal knotted the score at 5-5, Kim and Farr added the next two goals to give Stanford a 7-5 lead with just over seven minutes remaining.
Denver’s Jill Remenapp would cut the deficit to one with 2:44 on the clock, but Munoz and the defense used what Bokker called an outstanding effort to hold strong over the frantic final moments to seal the win.
Dikeou, Farr and Kim scored two goals apiece while Ozer added one. Ozer currently leads the team in scoring with 47 goals on the year.
The Cardinal reached the finals by defeating rival Cal 16-6 on Thursday night. In addition to Farr’s four tallies, Ozer scored three times and added three assists as the Cardinal dominated from start to finish. Freshman Julia Burns contributed two goals and three assists while Kim and sophomore Kyle Fraser both had three points on two goals and one assists. Freshmen Dikeou (1 goal), Meg Lentz (1 assist) and Mackenzie Tesei (1 assist) each added a point in their collegiate postseason debuts.
On the defensive end, junior defender Megan Lerner tallied four draw controls to extend her school record to 59 for the season and also picked up three ground balls. Munoz made five saves.
Stanford now turns its attention to the NCAA Tournament, where the Cardinal has never advanced past the first round. To do so in 2013 and continue its pursuit of a national championship, Stanford will first have to defeat Notre Dame, which defeated Stanford 12-10 in the season opener on the Farm back in February. Stanford held a 7-2 lead at halftime, but the Irish stormed back with 10 second-half goals for the victory. The game will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday in Evanston.
“I’m so excited to represent Stanford on the national level,” Bokker told GoStanford.com. “These were our goals all season, to win the MPSF Championship and compete in the NCAA Tournament so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky ‘at’ stanford.edu.