Oct. 7, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - A milestone victory was wasted on a coach who refuses to take any credit.
Stanford's Paul Ratcliffe earned his 200th career victory with the Cardinal's 3-0 women's soccer victory over USC before 1,781 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium on Friday night.
It also marked a school-record tying seventh consecutive shutout and enabled the Cardinal to seize first place in the Pac-12 after co-leaders UCLA and Utah suffered a draw and a loss, respectively.
The scenario Stanford finds itself is this: a showdown against No. 3 UCLA on Sunday will thrust the winner into position to capture the conference championship.
No. 200? That was hardly a thought after the Cardinal triumph, at least by the one who accomplished the feat.
"My goal right now is to win the Pac-12 title for the team," said Ratcliffe, who is 200-69-26 in 14 seasons as women's Division I head coach, at Saint Mary's and Stanford. "And I want to win a national championship. Those are the only two things in my mind - the team goals. I'm not into the individual awards. The team always comes first with me."
But 200 victories must signify something special ...
"It means I've been blest to have some amazing players to coach at Stanford and they're giving us positive results," he said. "That's how we're getting the wins."
Friday's victory was significant in other ways. It extended Stanford's variety of streaks to: 55 consecutive regular-season matches unbeaten, 46 consecutive home matches unbeaten, 42 consecutive home victories, 24 consecutive conference victories, and 17 consecutive conference home victories.
In addition, this is the fourth time Stanford has earned seven consecutive shutouts, and the first time since 2004. The team's defensive scoreless streak now stands at 657 minutes, 26 seconds, and is approaching the school record of 774:22. Stanford hasn't allowed a goal since Sept. 9 against Notre Dame.
But it's the offense that was the most striking, breaking out for three goals after the Cardinal was held to single goals in its past two matches.
"It's a good confidence builder, because it shows that we can finish, and that's the most important thing," said Griffen, who scored her first goal of the season on a perfect placement off a breakaway. "The Washington weekend was kind of a hit to our confidence. It was so frustrating that we couldn't score. Maybe this will open the floodgates."
Stanford has outscored foes 18-0 during the shutout streak and 39-4 overall. With Griffen and Quon, who scored on a powerful left-footer from the top of the box in the 42nd minute, 13 players have now scored this season.
Payne had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute when she headed in Kristy Zurmuhlen's header off a Taylor corner kick. Payne, who was stationed at the backpost, scored her fourth goal of the season.
"It shows the quality of our team," Ratcliffe said. "We have amazing players at every position. They're all capable of scoring if given half a chance."
Stanford returned three of them - outside back Camille Levin, goalkeeper Emily Oliver, and forward Lindsay Taylor - after a week-long U.S. under-23 camp that was meant to identify young talent for full national team's Olympic qualifying run, which begins Jan. 19.
All started and looked sharp, with Taylor limited to 53 minutes and Levin to 75. Oliver played the entire match and made two saves while earning her sixth shutout of the season and 16th of her career, moving her into a tie for sixth on Stanford's all-time list with Erica Holland (2004-07).
"Cami, Lindsay Taylor and Emily looked fantastic," Ratcliffe said. "They're well-trained athletes, so they're super fit and they're young. But at the end of the day, we were able to give L.T. and Cami a little bit of a break, which I think will help a lot for the UCLA game."
That showdown comes Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cagan Stadium against the No. 3 Bruins (10-0-2, 3-0-1), who were held to a 0-0 draw at Cal on Friday. The match could decide the conference title. After all, the two have claimed at least a share of the past 10 conference championships, with Stanford owning the past two.
"We're excited for the challenge," Ratcliffe said.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics