LYNCHBURG, Va. – Two late goals by Liberty’s Natalie Barr were the difference as No. 10 Stanford fell to the Lady Flames 2-1 Saturday in the NorPac Championship.
The Cardinal (16-5) dominated a majority of the game, controlling possession and the pace of play. Stanford, which held an 11-2 penalty corner advantage over Liberty (17-4), was able to convert on just one corner opportunity.
It was that kind of a day for the Cardinal which outshot Liberty 15-7 and spent a majority of its time in the offensive zone, generating numerous scoring opportunities.
With the victory, Liberty claims its first NorPac Championship in program history and earns the NorPac automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford will find out its NCAA Tournament fate Sunday at 7 p.m. PT during the NCAA selection show. Despite the loss, the Cardinal has a good case for an at-large bid, with a strong strength of schedule and four wins against top-20 opponents. Stanford boasts one of the nation’s best defenses and has been ranked 13th or higher in every Penn Monto/NFHCA Coaches Poll this season – including a No. 6 ranking for two consecutive weeks.
Stanford opened the game strong, generating five shots and four penalty corners in the first 14 minutes of play. The Cardinal controlled a majority of possession in the first half and dictated the pace of the game.
Aside from a couple of dangerous opportunities in transition, Liberty had difficulty establishing consistent pressure in the Stanford zone, constantly being hassled by the Cardinal defense. Stanford limited the Lady Flames to four shots and one penalty corner in the first half.
It was much of the same in the second stanza with the Cardinal spending a majority of the time on the offensive side of the field. Stanford had its share of scoring opportunities throughout the beginning portion of the second half, including a penalty corner shot by Jessica Chisholm in the 39th minute that sailed just wide-right of the cage.
The defense continued to shut down any sustained Liberty attack, coming under pressure primarily in transition situations. Dulcie Davies made a big save on Liberty’s second penalty corner opportunity in the 52nd minute, diving to her right to send the shot wide and keep the score knotted at 0-0.
The game opened up when Stanford was forced to play a man-down for five minutes after Fran Tew was issued a yellow card at 55:12. Liberty capitalized on the opportunity and scored a goal at 57:23 to take a 1-0 lead.
Positioned just outside the top of the circle, Serena Barr sent a hard pass into the circle to Natalie Barr who redirected the feed into the right side of the cage past a diving Davies.
Secco had a chance to tie the game less than two minutes later, receiving a pass from Clemence Couteau at the center of the cage with no defenders around her but sent the shot just wide-left.
The Cardinal eventually broke through when Alex McCawley scored in the 65th minute on Stanford’s 11th penalty corner opportunity of the game. Positioned on the right side of the goal, McCawley received a pass from Chisholm and drilled a shot into the back of the cage and tying the game at one-all. It was a well-deserved goal for McCawley who played a strong championship match, generating multiple scoring opportunities for the Cardinal throughout the game.
Natalie Barr responded less than two minutes later at 66:11 with her second of the game, a backhand shot from the center of the circle into the left corner of the goal to give Liberty a 2-1 lead.
Stanford pulled Davies from goal for an extra attacker in the final minutes but was unable to find the equalizer and dropped just its second NorPac Championship match in the past seven years.
The Cardinal will find out its NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday at 7 p.m. PT.
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Notes: Anna Simmons and Maddie Secco were named to the NorPac All-Tournament team ... Stanford fell to 2-2 in NorPac Championship finals over the past four seasons … The Cardinal’s last loss in the conference final occurred in 2011, a 1-0 defeat against California … Stanford fell to 5-3 in games decided by one goal this season … It was the first time Stanford lost by one goal in regulation … The Cardinal has outshot opponents in 16 of 21 matches … It was the second time Stanford lost despite outshooting its opponent (Sept. 4, No. 4 Connecticut, 15-7) … eight Cardinal players combined for Stanford’s 15 shots … Stanford holds advantages over opponents in shots (314-155), penalty corners (160-62) and goals (57-19).