No. 2 Stanford women’s soccer (17-1-1, 10-1-0 Pac-12) is preparing to take on Houston Baptist (10-10-1, 5-5-1 Southland) in the first round of NCAA Tournament play on Friday at home.
The Cardinal managed to earn first-seed placement due to a nearly flawless regular season. These results also led the team to win the Pac-12 title last week, which automatically qualified Stanford for the NCAA tournament and gave it the first-place seed.
The other first-seed opponents for the tournament are West Virginia (qualifier from the Big-12 Conference), the University of Florida (qualifier from the Southeastern Conference) and the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
As Stanford prepares for this game, it must keep in mind that it is just the first of a potentially long tournament that could culminate in playing difficult opponents, including the other first seeds mentioned above.
Houston Baptist University was an automatic qualifier from the Southland Conference. Because the team did not perform as well as Stanford throughout regular and conference play, they are unseeded for the tournament.
Still, the Huskies will pose a definite threat to the Cardinal team, which is looking to ride its momentum and propel itself far into this tournament.
Stanford will be particularly intent on progressing in the postseason as it seeks to redeem itself after last year, when the squad lost in penalty kicks during the NCAA Quarterfinals against Duke.
The first round of play against the Huskies should give the Cardinal a feel for their surroundings, as they look to get to the second round of the tournament.
Houston Baptist has had a strong season, scoring 35 total against opponents, with an average of 1.67 goals scored per game.
The Huskies have also managed 130 shots-on-goal this season, culminating in about 13 shots per game. All of this makes them a formidable opponent for the Stanford defense and senior goalkeeper Jane Campbell.
Another important component of the HBU attacking end are the 28 assists they have tallied throughout the season. The fact that 80 percent of their goals were scored with an assist highlights the well-implemented teamwork and communication that Stanford will face as they take them on.
Stanford’s defense, which has been steadfast all season, should be able to take on this challenge.
Led by senior Maddie Bauer, sophomore Alana Cook, Campbell and sophomore Tegan McGrady, this side of the field has only let 16 balls from opponents go into the back of the net. This low goal percentage most likely also stems from an extremely low 146 shots that the defense has allowed challengers to take.
Stanford’s offense, which features players such as senior Megan Turner, juniors Andi Sullivan and Kyra Carusa and sophomores Jordan DiBiasi and Michelle Xiao, will have to take full advantage of its strength if it hopes to win.
The Huskies have let in nearly as many goals as they have scored, but their goalkeeper has a strong 80.9 save percentage.
Stanford offense, which has notched 47 goals (putting them in the top 15 for most goals in the NCAA) will have to strive to continue and overcome this trend if it hopes to succeed in tournament play.
The Cardinal will take on Houston Baptist at 7 p.m. on Friday in Cagan Stadium.
Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’ stanford.edu.