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Tournament hopes high for top-seeded women’s soccer

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On Monday, Stanford women’s soccer (18-1, 11-0 Pac-12) learned its fate for the 2019 NCAA tournament. The Cardinal did not need to wait long.

Awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year, two-time national champion Stanford will begin its quest for the College Cup on Friday against Prairie View A&M (13-7, 9-1 SWAC). With the seeding, Stanford can guarantee itself home-field advantage in front of the Cagan Stadium faithful through the quarterfinal round.

Head coach Paul Ratcliffe has led the program to the tournament in each of his 17 seasons at the helm and currently maintains a 47-12-4 record in postseason play.

“We’re excited to begin our quest for a third national championship,” Ratcliffe said. “I’m proud of our players for the way they went about their business during the regular season, earning this home-field advantage which gives us more opportunities to play in front of our fans.”

This will be the first-ever meeting between the Cardinal and the Panthers. Prairie View is on a ten-game win streak, including three in the conference tournament. However, they have scored only twice in seven non-conference games, winning just one. The Panthers did not play a ranked or tournament-bound team this season, but can claim the third-fewest fouls per game in the sport at 5.5. Sophomore goalkeeper Quinn Josiah’s 0.867 save percentage is 14th in the nation. 

Stanford captured its unprecedented fifth-consecutive outright championship with a 3-0 win over Arizona (11-6-1, 5-5-1 Pac-12). The Wildcats are one of two opponents in Stanford’s quarter of the bracket the team has seen this season. The other is Big Ten tournament-champion and fourth seed Penn State (15-6-1, 8-3 Big Ten), who Stanford defeated 2-1 in the season opener behind two goals from junior forward/midfielder Catarina Macario.

Also in the Cardinal’s quarter of the bracket are undefeated second-seed BYU (18-0-1, 8-0-1 WCC) and third-seeded SEC regular season champion Arkansas (16-3-2, 8-1-1 SEC).

Stanford’s only loss this season — its first regular season defeat since Aug. 25, 2017 — came on a trip to Malibu to face Pepperdine (11-6-2, 7-2 WCC). The Waves made the tournament and will play No. 4-seed Texas Tech (15-3-2, 6-1-2 Big 12) in the opening round.  

The ACC was well-represented in last year’s tournament final in Cary, North Carolina with both UNC and champion Florida State advancing. The 12-membered Pac-12 and 14-membered ACC will each send a tournament-high nine teams.

Arizona is the only Pac-12 team Stanford could meet before the semifinal round. Conference foes USC (14-4-1, 7-4 Pac-12) and UCLA (14-4-1, 8-3 Pac-12) were each awarded a two-seed, and Washington (11-6-2, 7-4 Pac-12) snagged a fourth seed. 

Stanford’s offense is the best in the land with 3.79 goals per game, led by Macario’s nation-best 1.21 per game. The Hermann Trophy award winner also paces the country with 3.37 points per game, 0.95 assists per game and eight game-winning goals. 

The team lost considerable postseason experience this past offseason. Tegan McGrady ’19 and Jordan DiBiasi ’19 joined the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. Alana Cook ’19 now plays internationally for Paris Saint-Germain and will make her first appearance with the U.S. Women’s National Team Sunday against Costa Rica. Averie Collins ’19 transferred to tournament team Washington State (12-6-1, 5-5-1 Pac-12) and Michelle Xiao is taking advantage of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Stanford also lost starting goalkeeper Alison Jahansouz ’18 and 2017 College Cup Most Outstanding Player Jaye Boissiere ’17.

Still, half of the team was on the roster for the 2017 national championship run and even the sophomores have the experience of last year’s trip to the College Cup. Despite splitting time in goal this season with senior Lauren Rood, redshirt freshman Katie Meyer has taken over between the posts recently and her eight shutouts rank 39th in the nation.

Winning in the postseason is never a guarantee, but the road ahead for the Cardinal is clear: four straight games in front of the home fans at Cagan Stadium, then a trip to Avaya Stadium for the College Cup. 

“Now, it’s a matter of staying focused on one match at a time, one training session at a time,” Ratcliffe said. 

Kickoff on Friday is at 7 p.m. PT.

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Daniel Martinez-Krams '22 is a desk editor in the sports section. He is originally from Berkeley, California. Contact him at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.