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Lacrosse opens NCAA Tournament against Duke in South Bend

The Stanford women’s lacrosse team will make its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament when it plays No. 9 Duke on Friday at 1 p.m. in a first round game at Notre Dame, Indiana.

Senior attacker Rachel Ozer (above) has been one of the Cardinal's leader on offense all year, and she'll have to keep up her production if Stanford wants to make a deep NCAA tourney run. (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/StanfordPhoto.com)

Senior attacker Rachel Ozer (above) has been one of the Cardinal’s leader on offense all year, and she’ll have to keep up her production if Stanford wants to make a deep NCAA tourney run. (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/StanfordPhoto.com)

Both teams received at-large spots in the tournament; the No. 19 Cardinal (14-4) were second in the MPSF regular season and tournament, while Duke (9-7) was fourth in the dominating ACC and lost to Virginia in the first round of its tourney.

This is Stanford’s second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Cardinal returned 11 starters and 96 percent of their goals from last year’s team, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. That experience paid dividends, as Stanford went 4-1 against teams who have appeared in the top 20 at some point this season, including an 11-10 victory at then-No. 6 Notre Dame. The Cardinal finished their regular season in second place in the MPSF with a 7-2 conference record, but fell to Denver 14-11 in the MPSF Tournament final.

Stanford junior midfielder Hannah Farr clinched the MPSF Player of the Year award with her great goal scoring, athleticism and overall aggressive play on both offense and defense. Farr has 31 goals, 11 assists, 32 ground balls and a team-high 40 draw controls.

With Farr leading the way, Stanford also has an incredibly balanced scoring team, with seven players with 20 or more goals. Senior attacker Rachel Ozer, who has 32 goals, 13 assists and 24 ground balls, will be a key player for the Cardinal in the attack. Ozer possesses the experience and leadership qualities that the team will need in the tournament.

Other key players for the Cardinal’s offensive charge will be sophomore midfielder Lucy Dikeou and freshman attacker Kelsey Murray. Dikeou has scored 21 of her 31 goals over the last seven games, adding to the depth of the Cardinal attack. Also, keep an eye on Murray, who has 25 goals and a team-best 16 assists.

The defense for Stanford will rely on the leadership of a pair of seniors, defender Megan Lerner and goalie Lyndsey Muñoz. Lerner has 32 ground balls and 38 draw controls this season, and alongside Muñoz, who has 30 ground balls and 85 saves, she anchors the Cardinal’s defensive efforts.

Six Stanford players were awarded with a spot on the All-MPSF team, with Ozer, Dikeou, Farr, Anderson and Lerner all named the first team.

Duke has a postseason chip on its shoulder, as it has made it to six NCAA semifinals but never advanced to a final. The Blue Devils have defeated the Cardinal all six times the two teams have met, though none of the current players have faced each other. A pair of All-ACC first-teamers in junior midfielder Taylor Trimble and senior defender Taylor Virden will look to extend that streak.

Waiting in the second round for Friday’s victor is either High Point or host Notre Dame.

Stanford will begin its NCAA Tournament quest Friday at 1 p.m.

Contact Kristina Bassi at kbassi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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