Widgets Magazine

W. Soccer: Pac-10 title on the line

For all the success that Stanford has enjoyed this year, there’s one team that’s kept pace with the No. 1 Cardinal throughout Pac-10 play. Oregon State has been perfect through seven conference games, stretching its overall record to 15-1-1 and its national ranking to No. 13.

The Stanford women’s soccer team (16-0-2, 7-0-0 Pac-10) remains undefeated and stands as the nation’s unanimous No. 1 team, which means it will be playing the Beavers in a de facto conference championship game on Friday night.

Christen Press, above, leads Stanford with 21 goals on the season. The star senior looks to help Stanford to a regular season Pac-10 title when it takes on Oregon State on Friday (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal will also host Oregon (7-8-3, 3-3-1) this weekend to wrap up its regular season.

Friday’s game represents the first opportunity for Oregon State’s program to win a Pac-10 title, and it has certainly earned that chance. Under head coach Linus Rhode, the Beavers have enjoyed a banner season, particularly on the defensive side. Their only loss came in a 1-0 match against now-No. 11 UC-Irvine, and through 17 games the defense, anchored by junior goalkeeper Colleen Boyd, has allowed only seven goals. The Cardinal, backstopped by freshman keeper Emily Oliver, has allowed 10 goals through 18 games.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Beavers’ season is how much of a turnaround it is from only a few years ago. Oregon State posted a combined 2-22-3 record in the Pac-10 from 2006-08, and after leading his team to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season, Rhode has this year’s squad in position to do even better.

“Linus has done an incredible job,” remarked Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “Last year they were also an exceptional team, and I can’t say enough about how much respect I have for Linus and his program. We’re excited to play them.”

Some of Stanford’s more talented opponents this season, like Santa Clara and Washington, have taken a conservative approach on offense against the Cardinal, focusing on minimizing the goals they allow rather than attacking. The Beavers’ main strength is certainly their defense, but Ratcliffe thinks the Oregon State squad is talented enough to come after the Cardinal with a balanced approach.

“Linus is a smart coach, so I think they’ll play with a very organized system,” Ratcliffe said. “But I also think they have players that can come after you and try to score. So they’ll open up at times and try to score goals, but they’ll also be very organized and stay together as a unit.”

When the Beavers do attack, forward Chelsea Buckland is usually their leader. The redshirt sophomore leads her team with 18 points on eight goals and two assists.

Stanford, meanwhile, boasts the nation’s best scorer in senior Christen Press, who has found the net 21 times this season and has scored at least a point in all but one of Stanford’s matches. Press, a candidate for the Hermann Trophy, has nine game-winning goals this season alone. Another player to watch this weekend is Lindsay Taylor—the junior forward has scored in each of the Cardinal’s past five games, increasing her season goal total to nine.

Of course, the Beavers aren’t the only team from Oregon that will be visiting this weekend. The Ducks are having somewhat of a resurgence of their own this season, going from a 1-8 conference record in 2009 to a much-improved 3-3-1 mark this season, good for fifth in the Pac-10 entering the final weekend. They’re also riding a three-game winning streak, with victories coming against Washington State and the Arizona schools. The Ducks are anchored on offense by scoring leader Jen Stoltenberg, who has posted 12 goals and five assists this season.

Oregon may be an improved squad, but it has a lot of history to overcome if it is going to defeat the Cardinal on its home turf. When playing on the Farm, Stanford has outscored the Ducks 17-0 in six matches.

Stanford will kick off the season’s final series on Friday night, when it takes on the Beavers for the Pac-10 title at 8 p.m. The Cardinal will then wrap up its 2010 campaign on Sunday afternoon, facing the Ducks at 1 p.m. Both games will take place at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.

Following the weekend’s action, the Cardinal won’t have long to wait before learning where it stands in the postseason. The selection show for the NCAA Tournament is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon.