LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Strong defensive plays set up a pair of key fourth-period goals for top-ranked Stanford Friday as the Cardinal muscled past No. 2 UCLA, 9-8, in Los Angeles.
Stanford (18-1, 4-0 MPSF) upped its winning streak to nine and took firm control of the race for the top seed at April 25-27’s MPSF Championship. The Cardinal needs only to beat Cal State Bakersfield in tomorrow’s 1 p.m. contest to clinch the No. 1 seed.
Freshman Jamie Neushul and sophomore goalie Gabby Stone made two of the biggest plays for the Cardinal Friday. The Cardinal and Bruins were deadlocked at 7-7 early in the final period when UCLA (21-3, 3-1 MPSF) went on the power play. The 6-on-5 went to naught, however, when Neushul came up with a key field block, followed immediately by Stone playing the ball ahead in transition where Kaley Dodson fired home to put the Cardinal ahead for good with 6:05 to play.
Stone would make the second of those critical defensive plays with just under three minutes to play. Annika Dries was called for a five-meter penalty, stopping what would have been an imminent goal for the Bruins but setting up UCLA’s Emily Donohoe for the free shot. Stone, who made seven saves in the contest, would prove equal to the task, stoning (ahem) Donohoe’s effort to preserve the fragile Stanford lead.
Just as with the previous stop earlier in the frame, the Cardinal went right down the pool and scored, Kiley Neushul doing the honors this time. The junior driver walked in from the right wing, waiting for the right opening then firing into the far corner for the decisive goal. Stanford would get one more key defensive stop with 1:32 to go, as the Cardinal snuffed out a UCLA 6-on-5 by making a key steal of a wayward pass.
Stanford did well to reclaim the momentum on its game-ending surge, as things looked dicey after UCLA opened the second half with three straight goals to go up 7-6 after the Cardinal had led 6-4 at the break. After Maggie Steffens went off the crossbar with a penalty shot two minutes into the half, UCLA took advantage of its new lease on life, getting goals from Alys Williams, Danielle Ferraro and Mackenzie Barr over a span of just 3:11 to pull ahead. The Cardinal would promptly tie the game just 24 seconds after Barr’s goal as Ashley Grossman netted her second of the game by fighting off a defender inside.
The first half was a seesaw affair as the team traded goals in the opening frame. Rachel Fattal put UCLA ahead to start, beating the shot clock from the point, but was answered soon after by Grossman. Kodi Hill put the Bruins back ahead but the Cardinal got a 6-on-5 in the period’s final seconds, and Kelsey Suggs got free on the left wing and skipped her effort through to even it up three seconds before the horn.
Steffens and Dries opened the second half with goals to put the Cardinal up 4-2, then the teams would trade goals into the break, with Neushul getting her first of the game and giving Stanford the 6-4 advantage with a goal from the point 36 seconds before the half.
Stanford – 2 4 1 2 = 9
UCLA – 2 2 3 1 = 8
Stanford Goal Scorers: Grossman 2, K. Neushul 2, K. Dodson, Dries, Steffens, Suggs, Yelizarova
UCLA Goal Scorers: Barr, Donohoe, Fattal, Ferraro, Forrester, K. Hill, Ronimus, Williams
Goalie Saves: Stone 7 (S); Hill 11 (UCLA)