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Stanford women’s soccer starts hot in conference play

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After struggling to find the back of the net over its last six games, No. 8 Stanford women’s soccer (7-2-0, 1-0-0 Pac-12) scored in bunches on Friday, defeating Utah (3-4-3, 0-1-0 Pac-12) 4-1 in its first conference game of the season.

The Cardinal’s offensive explosion in the second half was preceded by a Utes goal reminiscent of the play that cost Stanford the game against Santa Clara. Utah midfielder Katie Rogers had her first shot off a corner kick blocked, but her second look was off a perfectly placed ball that Stanford goalkeeper Jane Campbell had no chance at saving.

Rogers’ goal marked the second consecutive game in which the Cardinal have conceded a goal from a corner kick, an area of concern for a defense that has otherwise been airtight.

For the Cardinal, the most worrisome part of the first half was not conceding the goal, but rather the sloppy play of the offense. Stanford did not display its usual assortment of intelligent runs and crisp passes and instead got caught offsides five times in the first half.

In the second half, sophomore Kyra Carusa and the Stanford attack made the most of their chances, playing arguably their best half of offensive soccer all season. Carusa, whose high motor and knack for positioning have allowed her to create good scoring chances for teammates, scored her first two goals of her Stanford career to give the Cardinal a lead they would not relinquish.

Carusa tied the game after receiving a cross from freshman Averie Collins in the penalty area, after which she cut to her left and beat Utah goalkeeper Lindsey Luke in the right corner. Just 57 seconds later, Carusa was the final link of a beautifully executed goal for the Cardinal, one-timing a Stephanie Amack header with a backheel shot.

While Carusa’s goals sealed the win for the Cardinal, the rest of the Stanford forwards kept up the pressure in the second half, displaying quality and depth across the entire front line. Of the Cardinal’s 15 shots in the game, 12 came in the second 45 minutes.  

Unlike past games, these Cardinal shots often found their mark. In the 86th minute, Collins put an exclamation point on her best performance of the season, intercepting a lazy pass from Luke before clinically finishing for her first collegiate goal.

Junior Ryan Walker-Hartshorn added a fourth Cardinal goal as time expired, corralling a long pass from Andi Sullivan before turning and slotting a powerful left-footed shot past Luke.

Although Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe has heralded the potential of his young group of forwards, he has heavily rotated and tweaked the personnel on the field in an attempt to find a consistent goal-scoring lineup. On Friday, the Cardinal showed multiple ways to be dangerous on offense, taking advantage of each forward’s skillset. Whether through Carusa’s pace or Walker-Hartshorn’s powerful shot, Ratcliffe and the Cardinal certainly have attacking options as they continue conference play.

The Cardinal finish their road swing next weekend with games against Arizona on Friday and Arizona State on Sunday.

Contact Sanjay Srinivas at sanjay_srinivas ‘at’ stanford.edu.