November 1, 2000
My apologies are in order for the tardiness of this week's diary, but with all of the travel and midterm papers, one can imagine that we are very busy here at Stanford. The Santa Clara game was one that I truly looked forward to, in that we have developed quite a rivalry. There is no doubt that much like the University of Washington, I have a huge amount of respect for Santa Clara. It does not take a genius to note that they have traveled to the Final Four each of the last two years and were the reason that we did not make the trip last year. Santa Clara, much like us, is a very honest and organized team. I believe their record is deceiving and we had to do everything possible in our preparation to make sure that we were ready for a very difficult battle.
I think that there was very little between the sides in the first half, although if anyone had the better of the play, I think it was Stanford. However, I thought we lacked a certain mental sharpness to our game that was clearly causing us problems. We went into the break up 1-0 on a well-worked goal. The second half saw us come out and take the game to Santa Clara and it paid off in a Ryan Nelsen goal. At this juncture things seemed to be looking good for the Cardinal. However, after we scored our second goal, for one reason or another we somewhat fell apart. In my opinion, this was one of the low points of the season. Mentally we were just not willing to do the little things that make us a good team. We always talk about taking care of the "wee things". However, on this occasion we really did not, and that more than anything is disappointing. For the rest of the match, Santa Clara took the match to us and was unlucky not to get a goal. Luckily for us, we finished the game ahead, 2-0.
Obviously, we were not happy with our performance and coach let us know in no uncertain terms how he felt about the way we played. It is not that we are demanding physical perfection, we know that this is impossible. We are going to make bad passes and our touch will fail us on occasions. However, we must demand a sort of mental perfection or sharpness and this was not present against Santa Clara. It is a timely reminder for us, and the question becomes how do we get better from this. It is all well and good to talk about disappointments, but it is what you learn from them. I think we, as a team, learned from the Santa Clara game, and I think we will use it to make us a better team in the future.
Cal (Oct. 15)
A Pac-10 game is a Pac-10 game is a Pac-10 game. I do not care who or where you are playing, league games are big ones, and the Cal game certainly qualified as a big one. If we wanted to keep pace in the league than we obviously needed the full three points against an underrated Cal. Obviously, they are not having the kind of season they would have liked, but they will always play Stanford teams very tightly.
The first half of the game saw us dominate in a way, but we did not make a multitude of chances and we certainly let them into the game more than we would have liked. Our problem in the first half was more of tactics than anything else, as we gave them too much space to operate. The halftime whistle was good for us in that it allowed us to talk over our tactics and figure out how we wanted to dictate the game to Cal.
The difference between our first half performance and our second half performance was like night and day. In the second half, we made Cal much more predictable and proceeded to take balls off of them. We were rewarded from a very good second half performance with three goals and we duly won the game, 3-0. Any result in the league that gets you three points is generally a good result. It was now on to the Pacific Northwest for a huge away league weekend!
Pacific Northwest Weekend and the Chance to Make More Stanford Soccer History
The weekend and the travel certainly started out auspiciously. Unfortunately, at this time that is all I can say, because I think these things are better dealt with inside our small family of the team. Basically the start of the weekend was not ideal. But you know what: not everything in life goes smoothly, so we had to figure out a way to get back on track and to, as (assistant coach) Pieter Lehrer said "get better from this experience." Needless to say, this was an enormous weekend for us, and we needed the full six points from the weekend in order to stake a claim for the Pac-10 title.
The Oregon State game in Corvallis was always going to be a battle. I, of course, knew this because this would be the third time I had played in Corvallis. Of all the places I have played in my career at Stanford, this is my least favorite place to play. For some reason, it is just a very difficult place to play and we have never performed extremely well in Corvallis. All of these things had me very focused on the task at hand and not even considering the game that loomed large on Sunday.
The first half of the match was a real battle as was expected. To their credit, Oregon State always gets up for their matches against Stanford and thus they battle us physically. However, we were making chances in the first half even though I did not feel we had yet to truly grip the game and make it ours. We scored on a beautifully worked set piece to put us on top 1-0 going into the half.
In my opinion, the second half saw us take more control of the game and really limit Oregon State to a small say in the game. Unfortunately, as was the case in the first half, we did not put many of our chances "on-goal" on a slick, rain-soaked field. While we dominated the half, we always left ourselves vulnerable for a fluky goal because we had failed to put the game out of reach. Sometimes your worst fears come true, and Oregon State scored on a seemingly harmless shot that deflected into our goal with only three minutes remaining. But instead of hanging our heads, we replied by scoring about 30 seconds later to seal the victory. Needless to say, I was happy to get out of Corvallis and head up to Seattle.
Obviously, the team was anxious to play this game and avenge our prior defeat. As I've stated before, these are the fun games to play in and certainly the Husky crowd provided a tremendous atmosphere. Husky Stadium had around 3,500 at the game cheering on their home side. From our perspective, we started the game very poorly and in some ways we were lucky not to concede a goal. I do not think it was for lack of preparation, but for whatever reason we had a difficult time competing in the first 20 minutes. Fortunately, we scored a goal on the break midway through the first half, and for some reason this settled us down a bit.
The second half saw us come out with more determination and a desire to take the game to Washington. I believe we dominated great portions of the second half. I thought that the difference in the half was our willingness to truly battle as well as settling our nerves and regaining our composure. Corey Woolfolk sealed the tremendous road win with a goal in the 89th minute. Needless to say, everyone was delighted with the result and it made for a happy trip home.
Stanford Soccer 2000 has thus far experienced many firsts. It was the first time we had won at Dartmouth. It was the first time that we have gone to the Pacific Northwest and come away with two victories and the full six points. In our preparation for next week's match, Coach made it clear that it would be a first for us to beat Cal at their place for his and my time on the Farm. Obviously, we must use these notions to motivate us for what should be a very difficult road match against a confident Cal.
I think this is a critical time in everyone's season. For ourselves in particular, it would be easy for us to become complacent and to start looking ahead to future matches. However, complacency and success go together like oil and vinegar. I think we used the long week of preparation for only a Sunday game with the idea that we must become better. Because we only had one game this week, practices tended to be a little more physically taxing keeping in mind that we needed to keep ourselves sharp. We knew the Cal game would be a difficult one, especially considering their recent run of results. Certainly, we did not want to spoil all the hard work and the tremendous results that we accomplished on the Pacific Northwest trip.
To our credit, we played a superb game up at Cal and came away with a very good 3-0 result. I was very pleased with our performance, and why not? I had virtually nothing to do all game. Scotty Leber scored two brilliant goals and Roger Levesque added one on the break to seal the win. As I stated before, we had never won up at Cal, so we were delighted with the result. Another first for Stanford Soccer in the Bobby Clark era!