Maddie Bauer was ready to score.
She was standing just feet away from the UCLA goalkeeper as Stanford teammate Andi Sullivan prepared a corner kick. A senior, Bauer has specialized in playing center-back over her four years on the Farm. Naturally, as a defender, she does not get many chances to take a shot on goal. So when the opportunity finally came, in the 103rd minute of the UCLA match last month, Bauer was determined to take it.
“It came to my left foot [after the corner kick], and I just kicked as hard as I can,” she recalled. “I was just happy to end it for us. That memory of having a game-winner as my first goal was awesome.”
Bauer finally got her first collegiate goal, in the 3-2 double-overtime victory over UCLA in early October. As the regular season has wound down and the postseason approaches, Bauer has some final opportunities to extend her already lengthy record of contributions to Stanford women’s soccer, and she is ready to make the most of it.
“Every season is different to me, and this one is particularly special because I’m a senior,” Bauer said. “This is kind of my last shot.”
Over the last four years, Bauer has made some key plays for Stanford women’s soccer. However, it’s less often that her contributions show up on a scoreboard, as the fact that she has only one collegiate goal suggests. This characteristic is closely related to the position Bauer plays on the field: center-back. As one of two center-backs who act as the last line of defense before the goalkeeper, Bauer’s role is twofold. First, stop goals. Second, get the ball to the offense.
Stanford’s defense is a remarkable force: Since September 2005, Stanford has held opponents to two or fewer goals in all but one of over 270 matches. The Cardinal’s strength in the backfield is crucial to their success overall, and Bauer is a leader in that effort.
Bauer has started in over 80 games for Stanford, playing at least 90 minutes in all but one game so far this season. Stanford women’s soccer team is currently ranked in the top five nationally, and Bauer has been a consistent factor in the team’s impressive season.
"Maddie has been a major contributor to our team's success during the past four years,” head coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “This year, Maddie has emerged as a vocal leader and is playing the best soccer of her career."
Bauer is not exactly an unsung hero: She has won honors such as being selected to the All-Pac-12 team and the NSCAA regional first team multiple times. But while the center-back might lay the groundwork for the goals that get featured in the highlight reel, she herself is not the one scoring.
Although primarily defensive, the center-back position is analogous in some ways to a quarterback. Typically tall (Bauer is 5-foot-8, which helps for winning balls in the air), determined and with a good eye for strategy, a center-back often makes decisions about how the team will try to move the ball down the field. It’s almost as if Bauer is calling plays.
“I was always very vocal,” she explained. “I have no problem telling people where they should be on the field…Our coach, Paul, has given me the liberty to kind of decide what we do with the ball and how we set up our plays.”
As a senior, Bauer has embraced taking a larger leadership role on the team. She said that she has enjoyed supporting the underclassmen just beginning their own Stanford journeys and that doing so gives her some nostalgia in her final year on the Farm.
Bauer emphasizes leading by example, and she has certainly done so in her academics. An international relations major with a 3.56 GPA, Bauer was named one of 30 women’s soccer candidates for the nationwide Senior CLASS Award in October. She is also a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic honoree and was the only Pac-12 athlete to be a 2015 NSCAA Scholar All-American.
“Coming out of high school, I knew I didn’t want to go somewhere where I was only focused on soccer,” Bauer said. “I wanted to give myself a challenge, and Stanford provided that.”
Bauer’s determination has served her well, both on and off the field, in her Stanford career. She and teammate Megan Turner took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad through Stanford’s program in Florence during their junior year. The soccer team does not have matches during winter quarter, so the two teammates were able to go abroad without missing any competition.
Even in Italy, however, soccer was never far from Bauer’s mind. The teammates made time in their day to train, finding public fields behind Renaissance cathedrals and starting pickup matches.
“It was awesome to get to play a sport that we love in a country that, at the time, was very unfamiliar to us,” Turner recalled.
Back on campus, Bauer remembers Italy fondly. But now it's soccer season once again, and she and her teammates are focused on their goals for the year.
With just a few games left to play, Bauer is glad to have crossed "scoring a goal" off her Stanford bucket list.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea 'at' stanford.edu.