Women’s soccer will be coming home, and it might be for good. If all goes according to plan for the Cardinal, the team can march all the way to the College Cup without leaving the Bay Area, much less California.
No. 2 Stanford (15-1, 8-0 Pac-12) began its season at then-No. 6 Penn State and then-No. 12 West Virginia. After returning home for a pair of matches on Aug. 30 against Pennsylvania and Sept. 1 versus San Jose State, the Cardinal played out the remainder of September on the road, concluding with a 3-2 victory over then-No. 3 USC to open Pac-12 play.
Since then, Stanford has not only raced to a perfect 8-0 conference record, but has not conceded a goal, most recently shutting out Utah (6-5-4, 1-4-3 Pac-12) 4-0 in Salt Lake City on Sunday. Now, Stanford has a chance to close out Pac-12 play undefeated with a three-game homestand at Cagan Stadium.
If the Cardinal can maintain their current ranking and first overall placement in RPI, they will be in line to host NCAA tournament matchups through the quarterfinals. If Stanford can navigate its way through the playoffs, it would make a short trip to San Jose, home of Avaya Stadium, the 2019 College Cup and sophomore center back Naomi Girma.
A weather delay pushed back the start time of the Utah game two and a half hours, allowing for the pitch to be cleared of snow, but it took Stanford just five minutes to get on the board when the game finally kicked off.
Junior forward Madison Haley outran her defender along the wing, and slid the ball home past keeper Carly Nelson.
Under head coach Paul Ratcliffe, Stanford has been known for its possession style, but have increased their attack this season. As snow fell throughout the first half, the Cardinal continued to pressure and struck gold in the 17th minute.
The play, as it so often has for the 2019 team, began with junior midfielder Catarina Macario on the ball. The nation’s leading goal-scorer connected with Haley, who then found sophomore forward Sophia Smith with space in the box. Smith put the ball on her left foot, and finished across her body in the bottom right corner of the goal.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Katie Meyer came off her line to cut off the Utes attack in the 27th minute but was carded for her challenge on redshirt junior forward/midfielder Kristin Fairbairn. Utah managed four first-half shots, but put only one on frame, which Meyer saved. Stanford put five of its seven shots on goal, and were rewarded with a pair of goals.
The Cardinal stayed hot despite the near-freezing temperatures and scored four minutes into the second half. A give-and-go with Macario sprung Haley loose in the box, where she finished five hole between the legs of Nelson. The goal was Haley’s ninth of the season and the brace was just the third of her career, and first this season.
Macario’s assist, on the other hand, was the 37th of her career, putting her just four behind Christen Press ’11 for the Stanford all-time record. The reigning Hermann Trophy Award winner had scored in seven of the past eight matches and would not be denied by the Utes.
Matching the four goal total from the Thursday afternoon win over Colorado, Macario went for a one-two with redshirt junior forward Sam Tran and put away her 20th goal of the season. The 74th-minute goal allowed Ratcliffe to rotate players into the game, as 19 field players saw time for the Cardinal and an additional 20 for the Utes.
With seven minutes to play, Nelson was replaced in the net for the first time this season. SJ Edwards, her replacement, was immediately tested by a corner kick in her second career appearance. The loose ball was sent towards goal by Girma, who was awarded Pac-12 Defender of the Week for her part in holding UCLA without a shot on goal, but she was denied her first goal of the season.
Once again, it was all Stanford, as the team dominated 17-7 in shots with a 12-2 advantage in shots on goal. For the second time in her career, Meyer was forced to make a pair of saves, and came away with her eighth shutout.
Stanford returns home to warmer weather on the Farm to face Arizona State (6-8-3, 0-6-2 Pac-12) Thursday at 5 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.