Nov. 12, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - Christen Press scored two second-half goals, both on assists from Kelley O'Hara, to lead No. 1 Stanford to a 2-0 victory over Northern Arizona in the first round of the NCAA women's soccer tournament on Thursday night.
With that, a day that began with a certain amount of uncertainty, because of an injury to a key player, ended with familiarity. Stanford improved to 21-0 with the type of second-half performance that has characterized the Cardinal's performances this season, while also breaking a year-old school season record for goals, with 72.
Stanford (21-0) next plays BYU (18-3-2), a 2-0 winner over UC Santa Barbara in the first game of a tournament-opening doubleheader at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium, on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the same field.
"I would like to congratulate Coach Paul Ratcliffe and the Cardinal women for proving that they are indeed the No. 1 team in the country," Northern Arizona coach Andre Luciano said.
When Ali Riley, a team captain and first-team all-conference outside back, twisted her ankle in practice this week, Ratcliffe had a decision to make. Camille Levin, who filled that position earlier in the season, was also out with an injury. So, Ratcliffe turned to Katie Riley, a redshirt junior who missed the past two seasons with injuries and hadn't started a match in three years.
Katie Riley, no relation to Ali, learned of the assignment Thursday and admitted some nervousness. But after Northern Arizona created some excitement with three good early shots, Riley and her teammates held the Lumberjacks without a shot for the remaining 81 minutes, while piling up 34 consecutive shots of their own.
Stanford outshot Northern Arizona 37-3 - including 18-0 in the second half - and extended its season second-half scoring advantage to an incredible 50-8.
Stanford, which earned its 12th shutout, also hit the woodwork four times - three during a scoreless first half.
"I thought we were creating good chances for ourselves, but I also told them to be more aggressive, to get after it," Ratcliffe said of his halftime speech. "I give Northern Arizona credit. They played tough, and it took two really good goals to break the ice and get the victory."
Northern Arizona (10-9-2), the Big Sky Conference tournament champion, settled into a defensive posture, which served the Lumberjacks well until Press scored in the 55th minute by calmly chipping a left-footed shot into the upper corner of the net from the top of the box.
"It was just a matter of breaking them down," midfielder Teresa Noyola said. "I think they got lucky in the first half, but you can only hit the post so many times."
In the 67th minute, Press took a cross from O'Hara and struck a well-placed header to the near post for a 2-0 lead. Press, who has 18 goals and 13 assists (49 points), moved into second place behind O'Hara (23g, 11a, 57p) on Stanford's all-time single-season scoring list, passing Sarah Rafanelli (48 points in 1993).
Fortunately, Ali Riley's ankle injury does not appear to be serious. Stanford could have both Riley and Levin available for Saturday's second-round match.