There are certain expectations that come with a team when it has made it to at least the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for five years in a row, including one national title and two runner-up placings. Winning wasn’t just expected for Stanford women’s soccer; winning as the only thing that a lot of the players knew. Especially being a team hadn’t lost a conference game in 45 tries and hasn’t lost a home game in 73 tries.
But all good things have to come to an end eventually, and Stanford suffered a significant setback last season when it not only lost to Arizona State to break both of those streaks, but went into a tailspin after that, losing four of five at home to close the season and finish with an ugly 6-5 record in the Pac-12 that was driven home by a tough loss to Cal in the regular-season finale at Cagan Stadium.
By the way Stanford has played to start this season, you would never know that there had been a setback at all.
Seven games into the 2014 season, No. 4 Stanford (6-0-1) is undefeated — including four victories at home — and remarkably, astoundingly, still has yet to give up a goal despite a loaded schedule that featured matchups against the No. 4, No. 6, No. 14, No. 18 and No. 25 teams in the country.
It has been 672 minutes since Stanford last gave up a goal, and the duo of sophomore Jane Campbell and junior Sarah Cox have been airtight at the goalkeeping position against some of the most potent offenses in the country.
With the defense playing lights-out, it was only a matter of the offense stepping up. And through the first five matches of the season, there was not much offensive help, as the Cardinal needed an overtime to edge North Carolina and finished in a 0-0 tie with Notre Dame while only scoring five goals in the other three matches as well.
But this past weekend, the offensive fireworks finally started. And kept going. And going. And going.
In one of the biggest home matchups of the year, Stanford took down No. 6 Florida by a 1-0 final score in overtime on Friday before blowing Dayton out of the water with an eight-goal barrage on Sunday to claim an eye-popping 8-0 win.
The offense again came out stagnant against the Gators, with Stanford unable to even take a shot in the opening 35 minutes of the match, and the Cardinal were forced to again rely on the steadfast goalkeeping of Campbell to keep the game deadlocked at zero.
But with the determination that every member of the team showed, the tide slowly swung in the favor of the Cardinal, which outshot Florida 17-5 after the half. Senior forward Chioma Ubogagu, who led the team in goals until the rout of Dayton, created many opportunities for herself against a Florida defense that bent but did not break.
“We started to connect in the second half, settled in and started to wear them down,” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe to GoStanford.com. We started getting better and better chances, and we needed to finish one.”
And after a spectacular diving, full-extension save by Campbell kept the game tied and the shutout season alive in regulation, sophomore Stephanie Amack was tripped up and earned a penalty kick for the Cardinal with 92:47 reading on the clock.
Senior Lo’eau LaBonta did the rest, easing the penalty kick into the top left of the net to secure another big win against a top-10 foe and finally put the cap on a hard effort.
“Hopefully we would have scored anyway,” Ratcliffe said. “But we’ll take it.”
After that hard-earned win, Stanford took out its offensive frustrations on Dayton on Sunday, led by a hat trick from sophomore forward Ryan Walker-Hartshorn to blow out the Flyers in the largest margin of victory for the Cardinal since 2010.
“We’ve been building,” Ratcliffe said. “We’ve been a little frustrated we haven’t been able to score in the past couple of games. We’ve been training and working hard on our finishing and execution. Today, everything clicked.”
Senior midfielder Alex Doll added two late goals, fifth-year senior defender Kendall Romine scored on a penalty kick and freshman midfielder Andi Sullivan and senior forward Haley Rosen each hit paydirt once to contribute to the lopsided scoreboard. And to make things more special, the blowout victory marked the 200th Stanford victory for Ratcliffe.
“It means I’ve coached some amazing players,” Ratcliffe said. “I’m very thankful for all their hard work. Without them obviously I couldn’t achieve these things. I didn’t think I would win 8-0 in my 200th win, so that was very special.”
The Cardinal will look to build on their dominant effort from this past weekend when they welcome Santa Clara and Cal Poly to the Farm next weekend. The matches will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, respectively.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.