By Jeremy Rubin
“The initial frustration of losing [is my initial takeaway], just because I’m competitive and so are my players,” said head coach Danielle Spencer after her team’s loss on Friday. “But I’m proud of our rate of improvement.”
No. 20 Stanford (0-2, 0-0 Pac-12) fell 12-11 to No. 8 Virginia (2-0, 0-0 ACC) in Spencer’s debut at Stanford’s Cagan Stadium.
During the first half, the momentum was all Cardinal. The team scored five unanswered goals to close out the period — including two by senior midfielder Mikaela Watson and a last-second, perfectly placed shot by junior attack Ali Baiocco. Stanford led 9-5 entering the break.
As quickly as Stanford stormed out to the lead, however, the Cavaliers served it right back. Virginia scored five straight goals of its own in the first 10 minutes of the second half to regain the lead, 10-9.
Following a period of stifling defense from both sides, freshman attack Jay Browne and Watson found the goal in rapid succession to put the Cardinal back in front, 11-10.
A goal from Virginia senior Sammy Mueller, her sixth of the day, evened up the score once again. The stalemate remained intact until Cavaliers midfielder Courtlynne Caskin gave her team the lead, one they would not relinquish.
Despite starting off the season with two tallies in the loss column, the Cardinal remain optimistic for the season to come. Stanford’s 9-5 lead after the first half shows that the team can contend with top teams in the nation. Junior goalkeeper Trudie Grattan’s eight saves in the first half hour alone displayed what the team is capable of on both sides of the field.
Stanford’s season opener, a 17-13 loss to No. 10 Denver, displayed similar positive traits. The Cardinal won the second half 8-5, and Browne finished with four goals total in her debut. In the combined 60 minutes from the second half against Denver and the first half against the Cavaliers, the Cardinal outscored their opponents 17-10. Both Denver and Virginia are top-10 opponents nationwide.
“We’re looking to put ourselves in the best position to win our conference,” Spencer said. “We have to be able to move forward quickly and just learn from these games.”
These non-conference matchups against top-ranked teams will put the Cardinal in a position to succeed once the Pac-12 play begins.
After serving as an assistant in 2012 for Stanford, Spencer returned this summer following three successful years as a head coach at Dartmouth. She was named Ivy League Coach of the Year twice and claimed an Ivy League regular season title in 2019.
Stanford will look to reset and take on San Diego State on Sunday on the Farm, for a match set at 1 p.m. PT.
“I love it here,” Spencer said. “I have a lot of confidence in this team.”