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Three-goal burst sends top-ranked women’s soccer to Round of 16

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Coming off a 15-0 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament, when women’s soccer found itself with a narrow one-goal advantage at half time in the Round of 32, there was a sense that the team had crashed back to earth. Then, with a flurry of three goals in just over three minutes, Stanford entirely erased that narrative.

Junior midfielder Catarina Macario upped her program record season total to 29 with a pair of goals and sophomore forward Sophia Smith banked her 14th goal of the year in the short span.

“It was a tight game and then when we got the second goal things really opened up,” said Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “It’s a potent team. Once they start to gel or they get opportunities, they take them.”

No. 1 Stanford (20-1, 11-0 Pac-12) has not lost in Cagan Stadium in 40 games, and once again delivered with a 4-0 triumph over Hofstra (16-4-2, 7-0-2 CAA) on Friday night. The Pride came into the game with a 16-game unbeaten streak, but ultimately did not pressure the Cardinal.

Junior forward Madison Haley opened the scoring for the Cardinal in the third minute of action on a well-placed header. The play was instigated by the possession of Stanford’s stout back line, as senior center back Sam Hiatt connected with junior right back Kiki Pickett, who then lofted the ball into the box for Haley. 

“The first goal was an extraordinary goal, great cross by Kiki and an unbelievable header by Madison Haley,” Ratcliffe said. “I thought that was great that we broke through on that.”

Soon after, in the 15th minute, Haley rocketed a shot off the crossbar, but as Hofstra settled into the game, the Cardinal offense was uncharacteristically stifled. In the 20th minute, Haley won a begging free kick for Macario inches outside of the box, but her effort sailed high. At halftime, Stanford had taken 14 shots, but put just four on frame. The last, best opportunity found Smith with an open goal, but her shot was parried at the last second by sliding defense from the Pride’s Megan Fisher. 

“We were playing well, I think we were just getting a little bit frustrated maybe that we weren’t breaking through and getting more opportunities,” Ratcliffe said. “Credit to Hoftsra, I thought they did a good job of staying organized.”

In the second half, however, the flood gates opened. 

Haley, who was cautioned minutes prior, was taken down from behind by Hoftsra’s Anja Suttner in the 55th minute. Suttner was shown a yellow and Macario was shown a golden opportunity to atone for her earlier miss. With an expertly taken free kick that clattered off the inside of the post, Macario did just that.

“There was a free kick earlier in the first half and I wasn’t quite happy with how I handled it,” Macario said. “Once I got that chance again, I knew that I did not want to let my teammates down and myself down.”

Macario and Haley, the twin strikers, ran over to the sideline in front of the student supporters section, The Forest, and led the crowd in a cheer of “Let’s go big red.”

“It was an exciting moment for sure, especially because The Forest is relatively new,” Macario said. “To do that with Madi was very special because I know that I would have been too shy to do it by myself.”

Three minutes later, Macario flicked a ball towards Smith with the outside of her foot, who proceeded to blow past two defenders and put the ball across the face of goal for sophomore midfielder Abby Greubel. Unselfishly, Greubel touched the ball across for Macario to send home. 

Smith added her own name to the scoresheet less than a minute later. Pickett increased her season total to eight assists, remarkably tied with Smith for the third highest total despite playing fullback. For Smith, it was her 15th goal of the season and fourth career postseason goal in two matches.

After clinching a fourth-consecutive game with at least four goals and tying a program record with 91 goals on the season, Ratcliffe was able to incorporate the bench into the fray.

“I want to make sure people are getting opportunities,” Ratcliffe said. “We have so much depth and so many great players on this team, so it’s great to give them opportunities to play in the second round of the playoffs.”

At the hour mark, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Katie Meyer, who kept the Pride shutout without making a save gave way to senior Lauren Rood. The keeper was tested almost immediately on a corner kick, but made the save and preserved the shutout, Stanford’s 14th of the season.

Half of the teams seeded third have been ousted from the tournament. Most shockingly, Virginia (17-2-3, 6-0-3 ACC), which entered the conference tournament undefeated and ranked first in the polls, dropped its second-round matchup against Washington State (14-6-1, 5-5-1 Pac-12).

Only one four seed remains in the tournament, Penn State (17-6-1, 8-3 Big Ten), which overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat Arizona with a golden goal in Cagan Stadium before Stanford’s match. The Cardinal will meet the Nittany Lions on Sunday for a rematch of the season opener, which was decided 2-1 by Macario’s brace. 

“It will be just like in any other game, we’ll focus on us and we know how great they are,” Macario said. “Each day is a new game and we’ll just focus on working together as we usually do.”

“I think it will be a really entertaining game,” Ratcliffe said. “The game we played them early in the season was tight, and we’ll see how we’ve developed as a team and how they’ve developed as a team.”

While Penn State struggled through a hard-fought game Friday into added time, Stanford was able to rest its starters for the final thirty minutes of action. Freshman Kennedy Wesley, who started the game at left back and shifted over to center back, was the only starter on the pitch for the last half hour. 

“It’ll help us on Sunday, that we’ll be a little bit fresh,” Ratcliffe said. “Ultimately, Penn State’s a great team, so it’s gonna be a hard game.” 

The second rendition of Stanford and Penn State kicks off Sunday from Cagan Stadium at 1 p.m. PST.

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.