STANFORD, Calif. – The early stages of Stanford’s women’s soccer season have been an evolution of sorts, with each match providing the opportunity for the team to take an extra step.
In Stanford’s 3-1 nonconference victory over Iowa State on Sunday, the signs of that progression were everywhere. Lots of them.
Simply put, Stanford (5-0-1) pounded the Iowa State goal, outshooting Iowa State, 31-7, and forcing 10 saves from Cyclones’ goalkeeper Maddie Jobe. The shot total was a season-high for the Cardinal. In recent matches, other areas have shown noticeable improvement, such as the defense, possession game, and offensive combination play. But the out-and-out onslaught on goal had never been more evident.
“It was a good outing for the team,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “We’re growing with every game.”
Taylor Uhl scored two goals and Natalie Griffen had two assists to lead No. 3 Stanford, which extended its home unbeaten streak to 71 – the second-longest in NCAA Division I women’s soccer history. But the Cardinal needed to score twice after Iowa State (4-4-0) equalized 15 seconds into the second half.
Griffen, at right back, set up both late goals, first by looping a pass onto the feet of Courtney Verloo, who rattled a close-range shot between Jobe’s legs in the 60th minute. Another Griffen pass arrived at the feet of Uhl, who sent a low 83rd minute shot inside the left post.
“Natalie’s a great attacking outside back,” Ratcliffe said. “She gives us some flair out of the back and gives us one of the best crosses of the ball on the team. You saw that today. It’s creating good opportunities for us to score goals.”
Uhl had opened the scoring by pouncing on a rebound after Ryan Walker-Hartshorn’s initial shot was blocked by Jobe, who made 10 saves. However, Jennifer Dominguez tied the match for the Cyclones after a cross from Hayley Womack glanced off the outstretched fingertips of Stanford goalkeeper Jane Campbell and landed at her feet in front of an open net.
For Uhl, it was her second consecutive two-goal performance – following a 3-0 victory over Maryland last week. Uhl, who led the nation in goals (21) and points (51) last year while playing for University of Minnesota, now has five goals in her past three matches and six goals overall. Verloo, with two, is the only other Cardinal with more than one goal.
“Taylor’s a classic poacher,” Ratcliffe said. “She gets the ball in front and she knows how to put it away.”
This week, Stanford plays two televised matches against West Coast Conference schools as it concludes nonconference play. The Cardinal plays host to Saint Mary’s on Thursday (7 p.m.) on the Pac-12 Networks. On Sunday (7 p.m.), Stanford plays at rival Santa Clara on ESPNU.
“They’ll both be difficult matches,” said Ratcliffe, the Saint Mary’s coach from 1998-2002. “The West Coast Conference is a tough conference. I coached there for five years and I know there are quality coaches and quality teams. We’re going to have to be on our best level of play.”
In other words, Ratcliffe expects the progression of the 2013 Cardinal to continue.