Sept. 18, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - The Stanford women's soccer team, which beat No. 23 Colorado 4-0 on Friday night to extend its season-opening winning streak to eight, seems to be at the peak of its game. Right?
Sophomore forward Lindsay Taylor showed flashes of the form that made her the 2008 national freshman of the year as she continues to round into shape after being limited early on by a virus.
A revamped backline that includes two freshmen continues to improve each match and helped the Cardinal earn its fourth shutout of the season.
Freshman forward Courtney Verloo began to assert herself. She took on, and beat, two defenders on the dribble and slid a centering pass from the end line to a wide open Morgan Redman for Stanford's third goal.
Stanford's multitude of offensive threats appears to be expanding, with Redman scoring second-half goals three minutes apart to become the fifth different Cardinal to register a multi-goal performance this season.
"That's why I've been a little frustrated, because I knew we could play like this," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We're just starting to hit our stride, people are getting more confident, and we're beginning to play the type of soccer we want to play."
The victory, which came on the first day of the 15th annual Stanford Nike Invitational, extended No. 3 Stanford's season-opening start to 8-0-0, its best since winning its first eight in 2002. The shutout was the Cardinal's fourth of the season.
For Redman, whose goals came in the 78th and 80th minutes, the match alleviated some frustration because she had gotten close in recent matches without scoring. Not only did Redman have her first two-goal collegiate game, but she nearly had a hat trick, with an earlier long-range left-footed whistler off the crossbar.
"The first goal was a credit to Courtney," said Redman, who came off the bench. "It was a great ball. If I hadn't finished it, it would have been my fault completely. And the second one was a perfect ball from Hillary Heath. We talked about in practice last week, getting the ball in the back post." That where Redman headed it in.
"I knew that if I kept working, they'd come eventually," she said.
All four goals were the soccer equivalent of works of art. That was especially true of Ali Riley's that opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Riley, regarded as the team's fastest player, made an overlapping run from her left outside back spot in defense.
Riley took a square pass near midfield from Christen Press that sliced through the defense and freed up Riley for a run down the left sideline. Riley beat one defender to the ball and flat beat the goalkeeper who committed to the ground, only for Riley to dance past her and slot the ball in from close to the end line.
Goal No. 2 came after a quick combination pass between Press and Kelley O'Hara on the move. O'Hara got the return ball in the box and scored with the outside of her right foot for a 2-0 lead in the 50th minute for her team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Now, with Taylor getting fitter, Stanford is growing into a complete team. Taylor, a first-team All-American last year, didn't score or have an assist Friday, but she was more active and confident than she has appeared this season.
"She's getting fitter each game and sharper," said Ratcliffe of last year's 16-goal scorer. "And when she's sharp, she's a gamebreaker."
Stanford resumes play in the tournament Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against Wisconsin (4-3-1), which lost to Santa Clara, 2-1, in the opening match. Colorado (4-4-0) plays No. 12 Santa Clara (6-2-0) in Sunday's opener, at 11 a.m.
"We're getting better with each game," Ratcliffe said. "But we've got to keep getting better. The speed of play needs to continue to increase, and our decision making needs to be better in the final third."
What keeps the team improving, even in a 4-0 rout?
"Knowing that you only have a certain number of games, and every minute counts," Redman said. "Every minute that we're working hard, we're getting better."