As the regular season draws to a close, the No. 7 Cardinal women’s soccer team (12-3-1, 5-3-0 Pac-12) heads back on the road to play its final away matches against Washington (7-6-4, 3-1-4 Pac-12) and Washington State (11-3-3, 4-3-1).
The two matches will be huge for Stanford, as the women look to extend their victorious streak to five and clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament.
First up are the Huskies, who are coming off of two consecutive road ties against Arizona and Arizona State. Washington is currently tied for fourth place in the Pac-12, placing them just two points behind Stanford, who launched back up to second place after road wins against Oregon and Oregon State last weekend.
Washington is also within sight of an NCAA Tournament berth; so the Cardinal, which holds a 20-2-2 series advantage, will certainly be in for a challenge. The Huskies’ defense, anchored by former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week goalkeeper Megan Kufeld, has allowed just five goals against conference teams, so Stanford will need to rely on strong offensive play to find success.
Stanford’s junior forward Chioma Ubogagu may once again be the key to the top.
Ubogagu’s high-intensity attacking style has resulted in one goal, two assists and one shot attempt that led to a goal in the last three games. On Monday, she was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for her dominant performances in the Card’s last three victories.
The game against Washington State may also prove difficult, as the Cougars will be looking to secure their own spot in the postseason tournament. The Cougars, who are also tied for fourth in the Pac-12, will be in their second of two tough consecutive matches. They play Cal on Friday before facing Stanford Sunday morning to round out their home schedule.
Though Stanford has an all-time series advantage of 19-2-1 over Washington State, Pullman, Wash., has often been a tough place to play for the Cardinal. Those problems may be magnified by what is sure to be a large crowd drawn in by Senior Day.
Regardless of the conditions, Stanford will continue to focus on keeping up the high energy it displayed against Oregon and Oregon State. Keys to the game will include finishing early and maintaining possession, which both Ubogagu and head coach Paul Ratcliffe emphasized after last weekend’s wins.
“We had two strong victories [against Oregon and Oregon State], and the confidence level is going up,” Ratcliffe said. “We’ve got to build on the momentum and keep it rolling here to end the season strong.”
With luck, finishing strong could include a fifth consecutive Pac-12 Championship for the Cardinal, who is still in the running against No. 2 UCLA (14-1-2, 6-0-2 Pac-12). However, a single victory by the Bruins will secure a conference championship for UCLA, ending Stanford’s impressive run at the top.
With only three games left in the regular season, Stanford cannot accept anything less than two wins against the Washington teams before returning home to face Cal next Wednesday.
The Cardinal will kick off against the Huskies tonight at 7 p.m. in Seattle and at 11 a.m. on Sunday against the Cougars in Pullman. Both matches will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan ‘at’ stanford.edu