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Stingy defense powering women’s soccer to new heights

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The records just keep on toppling amidst this historic start to the season for Stanford women’s soccer.

First came Friday’s 3-0 shutout win over Santa Clara, which broke the old school record for consecutive shutouts with the Cardinal’s eighth blanking of an opponent in a row. Then on Sunday, Stanford surpassed a decade-old mark of 774:22 and set a new school record for consecutive shutout minutes.

Sophomore forward Megan Turner (20) . (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/stanfordphoto.com)
Sophomore forward Megan Turner (20) scored the insurance goal that sealed the Card’s record-setting victory. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/stanfordphoto.com)

And in the end, the No. 4 Cardinal (8-0-1) extended their season-opening undefeated streak to nine games and went unbeaten through their non-conference schedule for the first time since 2011-12 with a 2-0 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs (4-5) on Sunday at Cagan Stadium.

“I’m really proud of the team,” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “I hope they realize what an accomplishment it was to go undefeated with the strength of our schedule. I’m really proud of the team, but we have a lot more goals ahead of us. We want to win a Pac-12 championship, we want to win a national championship. So, we’ve got to keep working hard, keep enjoying every game, and see where it leads us.”

Even with the shutout minutes record in hand, however, the win certainly didn’t come easily against a physical Cal Poly team that came to the Farm ready to play spoiler. The match was decidedly a stalemate for much of the first half, with sloppy passing from the Cardinal midfielders and almost lackadaisical play limiting the opportunities for Stanford’s offense, which has been the main point of inconsistency to start the season.

Neither team created many opportunities in the early goings and Cal Poly didn’t even get the first shot of the game off until the 14th minute, with both teams combining for two shots through the first 23 minutes of the game. The biggest scoring opportunity for the Mustangs of the half came in the 24th, when forward Megan Abutin took a pass in the middle of the box and had a good inside look but shot it over the bar.

After another shot from the Mustangs went wide right, Stanford gradually began to buckle down and started to gain a possession advantage, with the Cardinal keeping the ball on the Mustangs’ half of the pitch consistently and pressuring the defense with well-placed passes and shots.

“We didn’t start strong,” Ratcliffe said. “I think it was an emotional game on Friday; we played really well. Today, we were a little bit flat to start the game. But I think as the game wore on, we got better and better and better. Second half, we were strong.”

Six of Stanford’s seven first-half shots came in the final 15 minutes of the half, including a pair of free-kick headers from senior forward Taylor Uhl and a pair of electric plays from freshman forward Mariah Lee that kept Mustang goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti on her heels and netted her four saves in the half.

After the break, Stanford kept that momentum alive and immediately took advantage, pushing down the field after a failed Cal Poly corner kick and giving junior defender Laura Liedle a chance to feed senior midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta in the box, who neatly tucked the ball into the bottom left of the goal to net the Cardinal a 1-0 advantage in the opening minutes of the half. The score was LaBonta’s third of the season, tying her with senior forward Chioma Ubogagu for second on the team.

The Cardinal kept the pressure coming, with a corner kick minutes later headed just wide of goal to the right by fifth-year senior defender Kendall Romine and the Cardinal defense doing its best to control the ball and keep the afternoon uneventful for sophomore goalkeeper Jane Campbell, who finished the afternoon with just one save, which came on a relatively innocuous shot in the 52nd minute.

“It’s the whole team playing good soccer, keeping the ball for long periods of time,” Ratcliffe said. “The whole back four is a good group, their cohesive, they’re communicating well. And Jane’s having a solid year too, and Sarah Cox when she’s been in there has been solid.”

Later on, in the 74th minute, with Stanford still largely dictating possession, Lee slipped defenders on the right side and sent a neat cross into the box, which was promptly volleyed into the goal by sophomore forward Megan Turner for an insurance score to put the Cardinal up by a pair.

With the victory, Stanford extended its shutout streak to nine games and has now shut out its opponents over its last 852:12 of play. The Cardinal will kick off Pac-12 play next Friday on the road against Utah in Salt Lake City.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is the Minnesota Twins beat reporter at MLB.com, having somehow ensured that his endless hours sunk into The Daily became a shockingly viable career. He was previously the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily for FY17-18. He also covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season.