Missing out on the NCAA Tournament always stings — but especially so if a team has been on the cusp of the top 10 for the entire season and it has had a good season until a tough loss in the NorPac Championship.
That’s the position that Stanford field hockey found itself in at the end of last year, and that’s the standard that the team this season will be hoping to surpass after missing the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in seven seasons last year.
The new season has certainly proved that the Cardinal are again meeting that high standard, as Stanford jumped out of the gate with a 6-1 record for the second season in a row, navigating what has been a tough non-conference schedule with aplomb leading up to the team’s NorPac opener against California on Sept. 21.
The Cardinal notched six consecutive victories to open the season, including marquee wins over No. 18 Delaware and No. 7 Iowa before dropping a tough decision to No. 12 Albany on Sunday. Before the loss to Albany, the Cardinal had climbed to a No. 8 ranking in the nation.
Stanford has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 15-3 so far this season, spurred by the stellar play of senior midfielder Alex McCawley, who has scored six of those goals to lead the team. Only a third of the way into the season, McCawley has already nearly matched her total of eight goals from last season, largely due to her improved shot percentage, which sat at .186 last season but has risen to .300 this season.
Of those six goals, three have been game-winners and one was a clutch shot late in the second period against No. 7 Iowa that tied the game and allowed for the eventual game-winner in overtime. And although McCawley’s success has been instrumental to the team’s hot start, Stanford has been getting solid contributions all across the board, with six other players already having scored goals as well. The team’s dominance of its early-season games was evident in the fact that it had not trailed all season until that match against Iowa — its sixth game of the year.
Another element key to the Cardinal’s success thus far has been junior goalkeeper Dulcie Davies, who has only allowed three goals through the team’s seven games, resulting in a stellar 0.42 goals-against average and a 0.914 save percentage, both of which lead all goalkeepers in the nation. Both of those statistics indicate a marked improvement from last season, which she finished with a 0.84 goals-against average and a 0.814 save percentage.
With Stanford being the only nationally ranked team in the NorPac moving into the brunt of conference play, the Cardinal have a reasonably favorable schedule through which to maintain this early-season success. After a big duel against No. 2 Connecticut looming on Sept. 26, the only ranked team remaining is No. 13 Northwestern, and even if the Cardinal have one or two slips in their conference schedule, Stanford looks to be in good position to claim its sixth NorPac tournament title and NCAA berth in eight years this season.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at [email protected]