No. 1 Stanford women’s soccer (8-0-1, 1-0 Pac-12) faces a familiar rival on Thursday, as the team hosts No. 52 Washington State (5-3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) at 7 p.m. at Cagan Stadium.
The matchup brings back memories of last season’s thrilling game between the two teams, which Stanford won in double overtime. The Cardinal are well-positioned to crush any attempt the Cougars make at revenge, as the historically top-ranked Stanford program appears even more formidable this season. Stanford is currently ranked No. 1 in multiple national polls and, unlike last year, has the home-field advantage against Washington State.
Washington State kept the pressure on Stanford in last season’s matchup, but junior Andi Sullivan said she thinks the team is now even better prepared to neutralize an opponent who tries to dictate play.
“I’m looking forward to setting the pace of the game, rather than feeling like we have to defend them,” said Sullivan, a midfielder and candidate for the MAC Hermann Trophy, collegiate soccer’s top honor. “This year, with how our season is going, I think we’re prepared to take it to them.”
Stanford has dominated so far this season, enjoying a nine-game home stand that will conclude when Stanford hosts Washington on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Cardinal have scored two or more goals in eight of nine games, and have not been behind in a game at any point this season.
Last weekend, Stanford handled consistent pressure from Oregon and, in the second half, scored three goals in an eight-minute span to defeat the Ducks 3-0. Washington State is coming off a closely contested 1-0 loss to No. 42 Colorado, in which the Cougars had seven shots on goal but failed to score.
Uniquely for Stanford student-athletes, however, the game on Thursday marks a new phase in the season: Classes began on Monday for the 2016-2017 academic year. Stanford organizes its academic year on the quarter system, so fall quarter classes start approximately a month later than at most universities. The later start means that Stanford soccer players may sometimes get to play nearly half their season while still on summer break academically.
However, beginning this week, the team must be able to balance soccer and school in order to finish the season well. Sullivan said that while the start of classes is an added responsibility, she and her teammates also look forward to getting back into their full college routine.
“I think sometimes it can provide a good balance, to have a break from soccer outside of practice,” she said. “So when you come to practice you can be locked in, and then you leave it behind and you go focus on your academics. I think that can be energizing.”
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.