Sept. 4, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - It's not often that the third goal in a 6-0 victory is the biggest of the match.
But that was clearly the case for Stanford against Northwestern on Sunday when junior defender Madeleine Thompson reached Shelby Payne's pinpoint cross and struck home her first collegiate goal in her first collegiate start.
The mob of teammates and the smiles that surrounded Thompson after her 45th minute goal signified that this was more than a simple celebration. In reality, it was perhaps a thank you.
Thompson, who learned Saturday of her first start in place of injured Kendall Romine in central defense, may have provided the answer herself.
"I feel like there are a lot of us on the bench who have been working really hard," Thompson said. "And I feel like I've been working really hard for this. So, it's great to be rewarded for my effort."
Indeed, Thompson's success mirrored those of her teammates up and down the roster, who have taken full responsibility for a scoring-by-committee approach this season.
With Thompson and Taylor McCann scoring for the first time on Sunday, nine Stanford players have combined to score 19 goals. That ties the 2009 team for the most goals by a Stanford squad in its first five matches since 1992. Last year, the team had nine.
"The team's playing a good style of soccer," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "They're moving the ball well, creating chances and finishing chances. So, I'm really proud of what we're doing right now. But we still have a lot to prove, and it's still early in the year, so we've got to keep getting better."
Teresa Noyola scored twice within a four-minute span of the first half to spark Stanford in the team's final match before playing host to Notre Dame in a rematch of last year's NCAA final.
On Dec. 5, 2010, Notre Dame beat Stanford, 1-0, in Cary, N.C., to win the College Cup. The teams meet Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium as part of the Stanford Nike Invitational. Notre Dame (3-2) is ranked No. 10.
The match will be preceded by No. 14 UC Irvine against No. 16 Santa Clara at 5:30 p.m. And the soccer tripleheader begins with the Stanford men's home opener against Kentucky at 3 p.m.
Also, the Stanford women's match can be viewed in sequence with the Stanford women's volleyball match against four-time defending NCAA champion Penn State, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Maples Pavilion. The schools have combined to win 11 NCAA titles.
Stanford's loss to Notre Dame still stings, but Ratcliffe rejected the idea that a victory will satisfy a feeling of vengeance.
"I just want to keep improving with each game," Ratcliffe said. "Obviously, it would be a significant win, but ultimately, I want this team to keep getting better, and keep improving so we're ready for Pac-12 and the playoffs."
Northwestern (0-5) was held without a shot for the first 54 minutes and was outshot, 36-4, overall.
Meanwhile, Noyola struck in the 18th minute by taking a pass from Kristy Zurmuhlen and creating space on the dribble before a hard shot inside the left post. Exactly 4:47 later, she knocked in the rebound of Chioma Ubogagu's shot off the post.
Lindsay Taylor scored her team-high fifth goal of the season when Ubogagu's shot was saved off the line by a defender, only for Taylor to fire in the rebound off a defender and into the net for her 38th career goal.
The freshman Ubogagu scored from the top of the box in the 65th minute and McCann finished the scoring with leaping header after taking Alex Doll's delivery at the far post.
Thompson, for one, is not surprised at the team's ability to score - 15 players have contributed a goal or assist.
"The chemistry on this team is so great," she said. "Everyone's been working so hard. I think people are pushing each other in so many different ways that it's making everybody as a whole better. We have such great depth and I really feel that any one of our players could step in and make a difference.
"This team's going to go really far. I have a great feeling about it."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics