Aug. 19, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - The Stanford women's soccer team graduated only two starters, but this year's Cardinal hardly resembled its predecessor when it took the Cagan Stadium pitch for its season opener against Penn State on Friday night.
But what didn't change was the result.
Stanford got four goals from four players during a 23-minute span that bridged halftime to beat the Nittany Lions, 4-0, before a capacity crowd of 1,571.
The triumph extended Stanford's streak of home-opening victories to 23 - every year since 1989 - and increased its home winning streak to 36, dating back to 2008. It also came against a team that has won the past 13 Big Ten Conference titles and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year.
"What did you like about tonight?" Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe was asked.
"What didn't I like about tonight?" he replied.
Because of injuries, switches, and just plain competition, Stanford fielded only five players in the same positions as its NCAA final loss to Notre Dame in December. Four players - junior goalkeeper Lindsay Dickerson, redshirt freshman defender Kendall Romine, freshman forward Chioma Ubogagu, and senior midfielder Kristy Zurmuhlen- were making their first collegiate starts.
Lindsay Taylor followed in the 47th minute with a close-range shot that she set up with a weaving run, and Teresa Noyola scored eight minutes later by beating goalkeeper Erin McNulty one on one. Marjani Hing-Glover completed the scoring in the 68th minute with a tap of an Alina Garciamendez header.
"It's like a new team for me," Ratcliffe said. "I know we have many familiar faces out there, but we've adjusted quite a bit. The team's playing well, and it was good to see them in mid-season form in the first game. They looked really sharp."
The catalyst was Levin. Playing outside right back after spending most of last season as a forward, Levin repeatedly won the ball, sought openings and drove forward without fear. She was directly responsible for the first and third goals by creating the scoring chances with her hustle and drive.
When she finally was replaced, with 16 minutes left, Levin received a loud ovation and was greeted on the sideline by Ratcliffe.
"Awesome," he said. "Incredible. Great stuff."
After the match, Ratcliffe elaborated.
"I don't know if words can describe how much Cami means to the team," he said. "She had such a presence. She's getting forward, defending. She was doing everything."
Dickerson, out of local St. Francis High in Mountain View, got the starting assignment and played 67 minutes, keeping alive the bragging rights of never having been scored upon in her collegiate career.
Verloo's erstwhile central defender spot was manned smoothly by Romine, who had missed two years with a broken leg and was the only Cardinal player to go all 90 minutes on Friday, working herself into game condition.
Even without Verloo at forward, the starting front three of Taylor, Ubogagu, and Sydney Payne combined for a goal and two assists.
Taylor's goal was spectacular. Defender Rachel Quon headed a ball forward that bounced over a defender and met Taylor in stride. As she reached the penalty area, Taylor cut to her right to evade one defender, and then cut left to evade another, setting up a driving left-footed shot that was partially blocked, but carried inside the left post.
"L.T. has the special ability to take people on 1 v. 1," Ratcliffe said. "She was weaving inside and outside those defenders and just thumped it into the goal. It was a pretty impressive."
Stanford's voracious attack had begun somewhat timidly, but grew as the Cardinal controlled the ball and forced Penn State to chase.
"Penn State came out really hard and we were obviously nervous," said Nogueira, a defensive midfielder, who has 11 career goals.
"It was good to get the first goal just to calm everyone," Nogueira said. "Fortunately, it came just before the half and that gave us the momentum going into the second half."
Different players, same style, same result.
"That starts with Paul, who's been instilling the possession style soccer," Nogueira said. "And the freshmen are willing to learn and trust that what he's teaching us is going to work. And for the most part it did today."
Did it ever.
"Obviously, we missed Courtney and Emily," Ratcliffe said. "We're hoping we can get them as healthy as possible, but it just shows the depth and quality of this squad that we can win against a really talented Penn State team."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics