The Stanford men’s and women’s soccer teams each have something to prove as both Cardinal squads face UCLA tonight.
The women, coming off of a devastating loss to Arizona State Sunday night, come into the game as the underdogs for the first time this season, having fallen to No. 5 on the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll rankings, with the Bruins ranked second. The men, for their part, must show that they can continue their solid play and maintain a presence in the Pac-12 standings going up against the No. 10 Bruins.
Tonight’s home match will be critical for both the confidence and ranking of the women’s team. Sunday marked the first home loss since 2007 for the Cardinal and the first time in 44 games that the women have lost a conference match.
Despite the team’s shock after Sunday’s match, head coach Paul Ratcliffe emphasized the importance of the UCLA match in terms of moving on.
“That’s the only way to get over these losses, is to get back out on the field and play another game,” Ratcliffe said. “I’ve always said, ‘You’re only as good as your last performance.’”
The Cardinal (9-1-1, 2-1 Pac-12) will look to improve its performance against No. 2 UCLA (10-1-1, 2-0) as it attempts to restart its winning streaks and reclaim its place atop the Pac-12 standings.
The matchup between the two powerhouses will be intense; together the UCLA and Stanford women have won a share of all 12 of the past 12 Pac-12 Championships (Arizona and UCLA split the title in 2004), and the all-time series between the teams is close at 12-9-3, with Stanford holding the edge.
The Bruins, under goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland (0.34 goals-against average) have managed eight shutouts this season, so the Cardinal will look to junior forward Taylor Uhl (10 goals, 20 points) and redshirt senior captain Courtney Verloo (6 goals, 5 assists, 17 points) to round out the offensive effort. Junior forward Chioma Ubogagu (1 goal, 3 assists, 5 points) may also prove critical against UCLA. Last season she scored key goals in the regular season and Pac-12 Championship matches against the Bruins.
Tonight, though, the Cardinal must forget past results and focus on the game at hand.
“We’re going to have to try to bounce back and see what we can do,” Ratcliffe said.
The men’s team also faces a formidable challenge as it travels to Drake Stadium in Los Angeles. The Cardinal (6-2-1, 1-1 Pac-12) is coming off of a 2-1 home win against Oregon State Sunday afternoon and will try to carry that momentum into tonight’s match against the Bruins (6-2-1, 0-0).
According to head coach Jeremy Gunn, the team is feeling good going into the game.
“We’re really confident with how we’re playing at the moment,” Gunn said. “Throughout the season we’ve been really consistent with the performances game in and game out.”
Tonight, Stanford will try to continue that consistency and avenge last season’s pair of losses to UCLA.
Junior forward Zach Batteer (5 goals, 1 assist, 11 points) and star freshman forward Jordan Morris (3 goals, 3 assists, 9 points), with help of sophomore midfielder Aaron Kovar and senior midfielder JJ Koval, will lead the offense, while the team as a whole will look to maintain defensive composure against the passing-oriented Bruins.
Despite being the underdogs against UCLA, the Cardinal will continue to play its own game.
“Going to UCLA, it’s a very tough place to play,” Gunn said. “But we’ve played other teams like them this year and done extremely well, and so we’ll just be looking forward and excited that it’s another opportunity and another challenge.”
The double header will begin tonight at 5:30 p.m. with the men at UCLA and end with the women taking on the Bruins at 7:30 p.m. at home at Cagan Stadium.
Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan ‘at’ stanford.edu.