Nov. 3, 2007
STANFORD, Calif.- In a season highlighted by program firsts and record-setting performances, Stanford's latest milestone clearly tops the rest.
That being said, the Cardinal might not be finished yet.
Stanford recorded its first 12-win campaign and conference tournament championship since 2000 on Saturday afternoon, defeating rival California 3-1 to claim the NorPac Tournament title on its home turf.
Because the NorPac conference does not receive an automatic NCAA Tournament bid, today's victory pushes Stanford (12-7, 5-1 NorPac) into a play-in game against Northeast Conference champion Lock Haven on Tuesday in an 11 a.m. start. Stanford will host that match, with the winner qualifying for the 16-team NCAA Tournament field. The Cardinal has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances in school history, the most recent coming back in 2000.
Saturday's win over California was even sweeter considering the Golden Bears entered the contest having won 18 straight in the series, a stretch that dated back to a 1-0 Stanford shutout on Oct. 6, 2001. However, Stanford had been close to snapping the streak on several occasions. Of the 18 losses, 12 were decided by one goal and five of the defeats occurred in overtime. Three of the setbacks took place in the conference tournament title game.
But a determined Cardinal squad assured that would not be the case on Saturday.
"I'm just so proud of our team," said head coach Lesley Irvine, who four days earlier was named NorPac Coach of the Year after guiding Stanford to its first winning season in six years. "Throughout the year we felt we had the ability to knock off great teams like California. Today everything just came together. All 11 players were firing on all cylinders and that was great to see in a pressure situation."
And that pressure was applied quickly by the Golden Bears (12-6, 5-1 NorPac). Ashley Glosz put California up 1-0 in the 16th minute when she received a quick tap from Carolina Bistue and fired it into the corner past Stanford keeper Madison Bell.
The goal immediately fired up the California bench after both squads traded scoring opportunities in the early portion of the game.
However, Stanford answered back quickly and knotted the match at 1-1 two minutes later thanks to Katherine Donner's second goal of the year. Donner took a cross pass from Katherine Swank and blasted the shot into the cage from the wing.
Midway through the first half, Stanford suffered a scare when Bailey Richardson collided with a California player, got knocked to the turf and appeared injured on the play. Richardson went to the bench and minutes later re-entered the game and provided an emotional boost to the Cardinal the rest of the way.
"We were able to get into a rhythm and began playing patient defense," said Richardson, named the NorPac Tournament MVP as the anchor of Stanford's backline. "We did a good job of keeping them in front of us."
The Cardinal momentum continued when Xanthe Travlos scored an unassisted goal in the 22nd minute, firing a quick strike into the upper corner of the cage that blazed past California keeper Kelly Knoche. It was the eighth goal of the year for Travlos, who has partnered with fellow freshman Camille Gandhi (six goals, five assists) to form one of the nation's most potent rookie offensive attacks. Travlos led all players with five shots.
"This is the start of something new and very big," said Travlos, tabbed an All-NorPac First Team selection after notching eight goals, five assists and a team-best 67 shots in her debut season. "We played with so much passion and heart today. There was no way we were going to lose."
The first-half statistics told a different story though. California held a 6-3 edge in shot attempts (10-9 overall) over the first half and appeared ready to break through at any moment in a closely-played match.
The Cardinal continued to play solid defense in the second half though, turning away Golden Bear scoring opportunities and generating scoring chances on the other end thanks to a revived offense.
Stanford eventually tacked on an insurance goal in the 66th minute when Jess Zutz scored her team-leading 13th of the year. Zutz poked in a rebound on a loose ball from Gandhi, capping the victory and setting off an early Cardinal celebration.
"We woke up in our hotel this morning and had a feeling we were going to win," said Zutz, a four-time All-NorPac selection who had endured three straight losing seasons prior to this year. "Even when California scored, we knew we could get back in the game if we were patient. We felt it all along."
Madison Bell tallied five saves in goal to secure the win for Stanford, which has now won four in a row and outscored its opponents 19-4 during that span.
In addition to Richardson garnering NorPac Tournament MVP honors, four other Stanford players were named to the All-Tournament team: Bell, Gandhi, Travlos and Zutz.