Oct. 30, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - Freshmen Mariah Nogueira and Courtney Verloo provided Stanford with a cushion and junior Morgan Redman clinched the 3-1 result over Arizona State with a late goal to draw the Cardinal within one victory of securing at least a share of its first Pacific-10 Conference women's soccer title since 2002.
Stanford (18-0, 7-0), which tied the record for the longest unbeaten streak in school history (1993-94) on Friday, can earn a share of the conference title by beating visiting Arizona on Sunday (1 p.m.) and could win it outright in the season finale against visiting Cal on Nov. 8, assuming second place UCLA runs the table.
Defender Rachel Quon served up two assists, first for a Nogueira header in the third minute, and later to Redman in the 88th, answering a goal by the Sun Devils (7-6-3, 0-5-1) that was scored just a minute earlier a when Courtney Tinnin's shot was mishandled by goalkeeper Kira Maker.
Freshmen Nogueira, Quon and Verloo combined for two goals and two assists for Stanford, the nation's consensus top-ranked team.
"Quon was our star today," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "Two great assists. She set people up for great goals, and the precision of her passing is amazing."
Quon was so explosive in her overlapping runs from the right outside back position that the Sun Devils often seemed caught off guard, and the two assists marked a collegiate personal best.
"Amazing, incredible," said backline mate Alicia Jenkins of Quon's play. "Perfect crosses. She's awesome."
Quon was partly inspired by the presence of six friends of her late brother Chris, who flew out to watch the game.
"Tonight was a lot of fun for some reason," she said. "Every game I'm getting more confident. In practice, we've really been working a lot on picking people out and finishing, that's really helped a lot too."
Verloo started up front for the second consecutive match alongside Kelley O'Hara and Christen Press, with Lindsay Taylor withdrawing into an attacking midfield position. Verloo, who impressed the coaches with her performance in a 3-0 victory over Washington on Sunday, seemed to push herself to an even greater level.
Her goal was the product of a first touch from Press' centering pass from the end line in the 49th minute. It marked the 12th assist of the season for Press, placing her within two of Marcie Ward's single-season school record from 2000.
Verloo battled through some physical defending and showed perhaps more aggression and confidence than ever. She took five shots and scored her fourth goal of the season.
"Courtney was fantastic," Ratcliffe said. "She had another great performance. She's holding the ball well for us. She's moving well - good dynamic movement. And she's getting goal-scoring opportunities and making her chances."
Nogueira also scored her fourth of the season as the Cardinal outshot ASU, 33-10 and forced 12 saves from Sun Devils' goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore.
But Arizona State's goal provided a little more excitement in the final minutes, with Redman rising up at the far post to head in Quon's long pass and earn her third goal of the season.
"I thought it was a good performance," Ratcliffe said. "The goal that we conceded was basically a goalkeeper's error, unfortunately. But that happens, no one's perfect. But I like the way we came back to seal the win."
Fifth-year senior Hillary Heath also was part of the lineup shuffling, picking up her second start of the season, in midfield, and providing a solid performance.
The Cardinal needs just a couple more to wrap up its first undefeated regular season.
"It felt good to be back home and know that we're that close to the Pac-10 title," Quon said. "I just want to get it."
The match had a rough beginning. The linesmen were caught in traffic coming from across the Golden Gate Bridge and arrived just about the time of the scheduled kickoff, pushing the match back about five minutes. Also, the public-adress CD player malfunctioned as the teams waited on the field for the National Anthem.
But John Riley, father of Stanford senior defender and birthday girl Ali Riley, began to sing. Soon, it seemed as if the entire audience of 1,156 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium joined him, as well as the players, to sing an impromptu a capella version in unison. And the match got underway without further problems.