Only 32 women’s soccer teams are still playing after the NCAA tournament field was cut in half last weekend. No. 1 Stanford (18-0-2, 10-0-1 Pac-12) and Mississippi (13-7-1, 6-3-1 SEC) are two of them, but after tonight’s game only one will continue their season.
Last weekend, the Cardinal advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament by eliminating Seattle 3-0. For her second straight game, sophomore forward Civana Kuhlmann scored a goal, this time off of a crafty assist by the driving freshman defender Naomi Girma. Stanford also scored off of an own goal and junior forward Carly Malatskey’s first career goal. Malatskey was the 17th different Cardinal player to score a goal this season.
Though the Rebels exited the SEC conference tournament in the quarterfinals, they were awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and proved they belonged in the field. Ole Miss collected their fourth win in the program’s NCAA tournament history over Clemson on Saturday. In a back-and-forth game, the Rebels edged the Tigers 2-1 to earn the chance to take on the Cardinal.
Freshman goalkeeper Morgan Mcaslan, who has started six games after Rebel senior goalkeeper Marnie Merrit got injured, describes Stanford: “They’re going to be a really really great team, but I think our team has shown against big competitors we step up.”
Ole Miss has an impressive resume that should give them some confidence heading into the weekend. Finishing tied for third in the SEC, Mississippi’s best wins of the season include victories over then-No. 9 Auburn, then-No. 7 Vanderbilt, and No. 25 Clemson.
Stanford will be the Rebel’s biggest challenge of the season. The Cardinal, who have been ranked No. 1 in the nation for over a year, are unbeaten in their last 42 games. They have won five straight playoff games at Cagan Stadium and only allowed one goal in that stretch.
It is hard to say whether Stanford’s offense or defense is more intimidating. The Cardinal rank second in the NCAA in goals, with 54 on the season. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Alison Jahansouz sits fifth in the nation in goals allowed, allowing only 0.435 goals per game.
Still, head coach Paul Ratciffe thinks there is still room for improvement. He wants his team to be better with “communication” and “be more assertive in the final third.”
The Cardinal hope to make these adjustments and continue their season when they take on the Rebels tonight. Before Stanford and Ole Miss play, Hofstra (16-5-1, 6-2-1 CAA) and No. 23 Wisconsin (13-3-4, 6-2-3 Big 10) will battle at 4:30 p.m. at Cagan Stadium. The winners of these two games will face off on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Hofstra advanced to the second round with an upset of the No. 4 seed in the bracket, Boston College. Wisconsin defeated Memphis to keep their season alive.
Stanford and Mississippi play at 7 p.m., looking to punch their tickets to the Sweet 16.
Contact Jake Stuebner at jstuebs ‘at’ stanford.edu.