By Stephen Ren
No. 2 Stanford women’s soccer (13-1-0, 6-0-0 Pac-12) defeated No. 16 UCLA (9-4-1, 3-3-0 Pac-12) 1-0 in front of a sold-out Cagan Stadium crowd on Saturday night. The only goal of the game came courtesy of freshman midfielder Maya Doms in the 18th minute.
“These are the kind of games that will prepare us for the postseason,” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “Tonight was an incredible atmosphere and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the support from our fans. They drive us forward and it’s always satisfying to deliver a positive result for them.”
The match was hard-fought by both teams, as they battled all the way until the final whistle.
Stanford remains the sole undefeated contender in the Pac-12 and extended its Pac-12 unbeaten streak to 34 games. The Bruins are just the latest team to fall prey to the juggernaut that is the Cardinal; Stanford came into the game fresh off a 5-0 rout of Oregon last weekend.
Both teams began the match attacking, but the Cardinal quickly gained the upper hand in terms of ball possession and creating opportunities for shots.
Combining a stifling defensive presence and strong offensive effort, Stanford had authority over the ball for much of the game, especially in the first half. Every Bruin possession was short-lived, whereas the Cardinal players seemed in control and moved the ball around, patiently waiting for openings. Junior forward Catarina Macario was a machine on the field, slicing through UCLA defenders with a startling combination of finesse and power. Macario entered the game leading the Pac-12 in goals (18).
“Everyone gets better when you play with Catarina, and that’s probably the greatest compliment you can have as a player, that you make everyone around you better,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s very rare that you get the complete player, and she is the complete player.”
Credit to UCLA’s defense, the Bruins held their own for some time. At the 16th minute, sophomore forward Sophia Smith weaved around several UCLA defenders until there was just one to beat dangerously close to the goal, but her shot was ultimately blocked.
The Bruins’ luck did not hold long. At the end of the eighteenth minute, junior midfielder Kiki Pickett ignited the only scoring sequence of the match, sending one high into the air and deep into the penalty area. The play that followed looked almost like a volleyball exchange — consecutive headers by both Stanford and UCLA players kept the ball airborne, until it finally found its way to Doms, who headed in a high-arching shot that sailed just below the top of the goal post and into the back of the net for her first career game-winning goal. The goalkeeper was hopeless to contest, and the Cardinal went up 1-0.
In response, the Bruins mustered a stronger sense of urgency, pushing dangerously deep into Stanford territory in the 32nd minute, but they did not net a goal. Another valiant effort came from UCLA’s Sanchez at the 35th minute, as she put on a dribbling clinic, spinning and weaving around Cardinal defenders. She got open for a moment at the top of the area, but the defense quickly recovered and cleared the ball before she took the shot.
Both teams continued to fight, but neither side managed to score for the remainder of the half. Heading into the break, UCLA had just one shot compared to Stanford’s six.
UCLA opened up the second half with much more hunger, attacking the Cardinal defense with more urgency and aggression. Their efforts earned them two corners, but they ultimately failed to convert on the scoreboard.
Stanford also looked dangerous. At the 55th minute, Bacardio got the ball in center field and streaked down Bruin territory. She sent one flying just above the goal.
Tension at Cagan Stadium reached a peak toward the end of the match, as UCLA grew ever more desperate to secure an equalizer. The Bruins looked most dangerous in the 86th minute, when good defense led them to a strong counter attack, with Sanchez at the helm. She got off a clean look, but the ball sailed just over the bar. UCLA went the entire match without testing redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Katie Meyer with a shot on goal.
The Cardinal journey to Boulder next Thursday to face off against Colorado (10-4-1, 2-3-1 Pac-12).
Contact Stephen Ren at rensteph ‘at’ stanford.edu