Oct. 18, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - No. 1 Stanford took control of the Pacific-10 Conference women's soccer race with two second-half goals to beat No. 3 UCLA, 2-0, before an overflow crowd of 2,400 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Stanford (15-0-0 overall, 4-0-0) struck twice within two minutes to snap UCLA's 22-game conference winning streak in front of the largest daytime home crowd in the program's history and fourth-largest overall.
The first came on an own goal at 71:01 on a clearing attempt of a Christen Press shot that deflected crazily over goalkeeper Chante' Sandiford and high into the net.
Next, Camille Levin, a reserve who was inserted at forward for the first time this season, headed in a cross to the far post from defender Ali Riley, who was making an overlapping run. The goal, at 72:57, would seal the outcome in a matchup of teams that reached the NCAA College Cup semifinals last year.
"You need a little bit of luck in soccer, and if you're doing the right things, you create your own luck," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We created our own luck there. We put them in an awkward situation, putting them under pressure, and it ended up deflecting into their own goal."
Stanford earned its first victory over the six-time defending champion Bruins (12-2-1, 3-1-0) since 2002 and first at home in the series since 1999. With the teams tied for first coming into the match, Stanford took sole possession of first place and now has the inside track toward its first Pac-10 title since 2002.
For only the second time this season Stanford did not get a goal from high-scoring forwards Kelley O'Hara (17) and Press (14), though they did connect for an apparent first-half goal by Press that was disallowed because of offside. Instead, the sophomore Levin, who has played in the midfield and defense, entered play in the 65th minute on the right wing and recorded her second goal this year.
"Cami had done very well in that spot in training, so I thought it would be a good element to throw out there," Ratcliffe said. "I thought Cami was fantastic. She was a huge spark off the bench. She's a player who should be starting. She's that good."
The Stanford defense, anchored by freshman Alina Garciamendez and senior Alicia Jenkins in the middle, recorded its ninth shutout this year. Goalkeeper Kira Maker was required to make a season-high five saves while UCLA applied more pressure than any Stanford opponent this season. The Bruins' 14 shots - to Stanford's 24 - were a season-high against the Cardinal (the previous was nine), and one ball from Laura Cheney hit the post while the game was still scoreless in the second half.
But for the most part, the Stanford defense kept things in control. Garciamendez said that there was an emphasis toward communication and, in her case, covering for her teammates.
"We just needed to talk more," Garciamendez said. "Sometimes that's all it takes."
UCLA pressured hard in the late stages, with Lauren Barnes hitting the underside of the bar in the 78th minute. The ball deflected straight down and Sydney Leroux's contested header off the rebound was high.
But Stanford nearly extended its lead when Levin played a ball that an onrushing O'Hara met with a diving header that bounced just wide left. Stanford attacked to the end as the match ended on a Cardinal corner kick.
"This was a College Cup atmosphere-type game," Ratcliffe said. "And they came through."
Stanford next travels to Washington State (10-3-1, 2-0-1) on Friday, and Washington (9-2-3, 1-0-2) on Sunday in a pair of matches against unranked teams.
"We can't let down now," Garciamendez said. "We have to go hard every game."
It's an attitude that's worked well so far.