STANFORD, Calif. – Even if it took 66 minutes to score, Stanford played like a different team Friday night in a 1-0 victory over Utah, than the one coming off a rare three-match losing streak.
The difference was the team’s energy. All season, and even before its recent skid, Stanford has started slowly, seemingly tentative in its play.
The lesson that coach Paul Ratcliffe tried to impart this week was that the No. 10 Cardinal needed to stop giving its opponents too much respect, and take the game right at them. Stanford did so against the Utes and finally was rewarded.
Courtney Verloo scored on a 25-yard free kick in the second half to give Stanford the Pac-12 women’s soccer victory. She scored her seventh goal of the season when she struck a right-footed shot from the left of the penalty arc and placed it inside the left post.
“That free kick was sublime,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “It was unbelievable.”
The kick, set up when Stephanie Amack drew a foul, was Verloo’s fifth goal of the season on dead-ball kicks – four on free kicks and one on a penalty.
“It’s funny, when Steph got fouled, I was saying in my head, ‘I think this is going to go in,’” Stanford forward Chioma Ubogagu said. “Courtney and I work on it a lot and it was more open for her on her right foot and I had no doubt she’d put it away. She’s really good at that.”
Stanford (10-3-1 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) outshot the Utes (7-3-5, 3-2-1) by a count of 22-7 and forced eight saves from goalkeeper Lindsey Luke. Stanford’s Jane Campbell made five, including on a dive to her right to stop a strong shot by Utah’s Ashton Hall in the 81st minute.
The victory ended Stanford’s longest losing streak since 2006 and seemed to provide a blueprint for the Cardinal in the season ahead.
“We need higher energy and we need to be more aggressive in the attack, and I think tonight you saw that, and it reaped rewards,” Ratcliffe said.
While Stanford’s play was encouraging and showed progress, Ratcliffe still saw room for improvement.
“I still want to get the possession game even more advanced,” Ratcliffe said. “Possession was good, at times, but it can get better. I hope it gets better.”
The match was the last in a five-match conference-opening homestand for Stanford, which next makes two trips to the Northwest, first to play Oregon on Friday and Oregon State on Sunday.
“We had a lot of people step up and give really good speeches and give us a lot of motivational talks,” Ubogagu said. “We all just got together and said, ‘All right, we want it. Enough talk, let’s bring it.’ And I think it showed today, which was awesome.”