Madison Haley occupied a pair of BYU center backs, holding up play for the Cardinal to advance. The unselfish junior forward then laid the ball off for junior midfielder Catarina Macario to bury in the back of the net.
The 17th-minute goal steadied Stanford for what would quickly become a four-goal first-half barrage. Haley’s pair of assists from the striker role pushed her season total to 12 and may have been her finest performance of the season. The Cardinal were able to rely on their outlet to build and escape danger from the nation’s second-most prolific offense.
In what was billed as the toughest test of the season, No. 1 Stanford (22-1, 11-0 Pac-12) brought a 5-1 onslaught against second-seeded No. 4 BYU (21-1-1, 8-0-1 WCC) in the quarterfinals. Entering the game, both sides had allowed just 10 goals, but the Cardinal were the ones to punch a ticket to the College Cup on Friday.
After a Macario shot on goal in the first 30 seconds of play, BYU was in control of the opening minutes of the game. Nevertheless, as Haley allowed her team to build back into the game, Stanford saw more of the ball and began to finish chances.
“[Haley] does a great job as you can see with her back to goal and just holding it,” said senior center back Sam Hiatt. “We always know when she’s in there we can find her with good passes or not so good passes.”
“When you play a really strong opponent like BYU, the beginning of the game is critical,” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe. “Both teams were kind of having opportunities, and there is some nerves there, so we had to settle down. Then, when the game started to settle a little bit, we played better.”
“There’s always nerves going into big games, especially as we continue through the tournament, stakes get bigger with each game,” Hiatt said. “It just took us a little bit to settle down, get our rhythm, and once we did, after that we were fine.”
At the half-hour mark, sophomore forward Sophia Smith catalyzed a second goal. Haley found herself with space in the box, but found an even more open Macario to double Stanford’s lead. Macario pushed her program-record season tally for goals to 32 with the effort.
The third goal came from the tireless efforts of sophomore right back Kiki Pickett. Sprinting forward and applying pressure on the defense, Pickett scored her second goal of the season to accompany her six assists from the back line. Pickett was one of four Cardinal called up to the national team, along with Haley, Smith and sophomore center back Naomi Girma.
The 24-player camp called in by newly instated USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski will begin the day after the final at the College Cup.
“Obviously, it’s a great honor to get called in,” Ratcliffe said. “Their objective right now is to take care of business.”
Stanford capped the first half with an all-senior affair for a goal. Midfielder Beattie Goad connected with Carly Malatskey, who assisted on Sam Tran’s fifth goal of the season and third of the tournament.
The senior class finished with a 42-game unbeaten streak and a 50-1-2 record in Cagan Stadium.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better result for our last game on Cagan,” Hiatt said.
A fluke goal for each team kept the halftime score differential. Smith’s pressure on the back lime forced an own goal and Stanford conceded for the first time in the postseason as senior goalkeeper Lauren Rood replaced starter redshirt freshman Katie Meyer and was beat on a free kick.
“It was really impressive performance,” Ratcliffe said. “The front line, the midfield, the backline, everybody played really strong.”
“We’re happy to be there, but our ultimate goal is to win the College Cup,” Ratcliffe said. “Now we have to take advantage of the opportunity to play on the West Coast in front of family and friends.”
Stanford will have a rematch with UCLA (18-4-1, 8-3 Pac-12) in the national semifinals in Avaya Stadium in San Jose. After winning it all in 2017, the Cardinal were knocked out at the same stage a season ago.
“UCLA is a very strong opponent,” Ratcliffe said. “They’re playing playing really well right now. I think it’ll be a fantastic game for the fans.”