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Men’s soccer seizes control of Pac-12 with critical wins

Senior forward Eric Verso (above) and the Cardinal seized control of the Pac-12 with huge wins over No. 3 Washington and Oregon State to catapult to the top of the standings. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

It could not have been a more successful weekend for the No. 10 Cardinal men’s soccer team (12-2-3, 5-1-3 Pac-12), as they came away with six points from two vital Pac-12 home games. First on the schedule for the weekend was a strong No. 3 Washington team. Stanford managed a comfortable and momentous 2-0 victory against the Huskies leading into its Sunday night matchup with Oregon State. Despite a late push from OSU, Stanford ran out as 2-1 victors in front of the home crowd.

Senior forward Eric Verso (above) and the Cardinal seized control of the Pac-12 with huge wins over No. 3 Washington and Oregon State to catapult to the top of the standings. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)
Senior forward Eric Verso (above) and the Cardinal seized control of the Pac-12 with huge wins over No. 3 Washington and Oregon State to catapult to the top of the standings. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

The striking partnership combined well against Washington to give the Cardinal the offensive output they were looking for. Senior Zach Batteer opened up the scoring in the 18th minute, rising highest to send a looping header over the keeper from a long ball into the box from midfielder Austin Meyer. Batteer then turned provider in the 48th minute, setting up an easy finish for forward Jordan Morris off an error at the back from Washington.

The Stanford defense held strong for the remainder of the second half, closing out a massive win against Washington that put Stanford into the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 championship.

As each game grew in importance, Stanford returned to Cagan Stadium on Sunday to continue its title push against Oregon State. A well-contested first half saw the two teams head into halftime scoreless. Although Stanford only had a slight advantage in shots at halftime, taking eight relative to Oregon State’s six, the second half saw the Cardinal take firm control of the game. Stanford’s increased output paid off in the 67th minute, when forward Eric Verso put the home side ahead. Brilliant link-up play from the Cardinal saw Corey Baird find Morris, who put Verso through on goal to slot a calm finish beyond Oregon State goalkeeper Matt Bersano.

Growing frustrations from the home crowd at refereeing decisions culminated in the 78th minute when Stanford was called for a handball inside the box. Oregon State midfielder Will Seymore converted the penalty with a powerful shot low to the left, equaling the score line and unsettling the crowd. However, the Cardinal showed resilience and responded to the set back just six minutes later when Baird dribbled through the defense and sent a powerful left-footed strike from outside the box into the bottom right corner. Baird’s goal proved decisive as the result ended 2-1, completing a critically successful weekend for the Cardinal.

“We’re in a game where we’re bossing it, we’re in charge, and then suddenly we’re tied again,” said head coach Jeremy Gunn. “It’s fantastic about the mentality of the team to say, ‘Right, let’s get after them again.’”

Gunn couldn’t have been happier with his team’s output this weekend, saying, “When you start the weekend with UCLA five points clear of you, you can say that you can mathematically catch them, but most people take points in the bag. To do what we did this weekend was absolutely magnificent.”

Following this result, Stanford moves up to first in the Pac-12 with one game remaining. The Cardinal head to Berkeley next Sunday in their final game of the season, hoping to capture a Pac-12 championship, something that this team has not accomplished since 2001.

Contact Jack Seaton at jrseaton ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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