Nov. 3, 2012
FARMVILLE, Va.- Different opponent. Same result.
No. 14 Stanford blanked Liberty 3-0 in the NorPac Championship final on Saturday afternoon, capturing its fifth conference tournament crown in six years and inching closer to its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
After the last six NorPac Championship title games resulted in a Stanford-Cal matchup, the Cardinal was faced with a new challenge this year against conference newcomer Liberty, a fast-rising program in only its second year of existence.
The next step is familiar territory for Stanford (15-6, 6-0 NorPac). Because the NorPac Championship winner is not awarded an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinal must participate in an NCAA Play-In game on Tuesday, Nov. 6, against the tournament champion from the MAC with a postseason bid on the line.
The stage is now set for a rematch between Stanford and Miami (OH), which defeated Kent State 2-1 earlier in the day in the MAC final. While the NorPac champion was originally designated as the host, the schools have received clearance from the NCAA to play the contest in Farmville, Va., in an effort to minimize travel and expenses. Stanford posted a 3-0 shutout of Miami (OH) back on Sept. 1 in a neutral-site game played in East Lansing, Mich.
So, Stanford will remain on the East Coast, excited to play one more game on the same field in which it just outscored opponents 11-2 over a dominating three-day stretch.
The Cardinal turned in another balanced offensive performance on Saturday, with 10 different players attempting at least one shot. Freshmen Maddie Secco and Lauren Becker scored in the last minute of the first half and first minute of the second half, respectively, while Becky Dru secured tournament MVP honors with an insurance goal in the 57th minute.
Saturday's NorPac Championship felt different from the start. Stanford's 6-2 semifinal victory against California on Friday squashed the possibility of a seventh straight final between the Bay Area programs. Instead, Liberty become only the second East Division program to reach the title game since Radford accomplished the feat in 2003.
After finishing 6-11 as an independent during its inaugural season in 2011, Liberty (16-6, 7-1 NorPac) entered this weekend's tournament as the conference's winningest team. Saturday's loss to the Cardinal snapped a program-best eight-game winning streak.
The first half remained scoreless until the final minute, when Secco received a cross pass from Alex McCawley and fired it into the cage for her sixth goal of the year.
The Cardinal continued its momentum, extending its lead to 2-0 just 29 seconds into the second half. McCawley dished out her second assist, setting up Becker for her sixth goal with a deep pass from the right side.
In the 57th minute, Dru iced the game with her team-leading 11th goal of the year following a textbook penalty corner with assists from Shannon Herold and Hope Burke.
Dulcie Davies registered her seventh shutout of the year, making three saves in goal.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2012 NorPac Championship All-Tournament Team
Becky Dru (Stanford)- MVP
Natalie Barr (Liberty)
Lydia Brambila (UC Davis)
Rachelle Comeau (California)
Dulcie Davies (Stanford)
Erin Dombach (Liberty)
Stacey de Grandhomme (Longwood)
Sidney Encarnacion (Radford)
Annie Evans (Davidson)
Kelsey Harbin (Stanford)
Alex McCawley (Stanford)
Ashlee Schlesier (Pacific)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
NOTES: Stanford captured its first NorPac Championship title since 2010. California claimed last year's crown ... Stanford is 3-1 all-time in NCAA Play-In games ... Becky Dru collected her second NorPac Tournament MVP award, also receiving the honor in 2010 ... Stanford blanked Miami (OH) 3-0 back on Sept. 1, led by Katie Mitchell's two goals. The Cardinal held a commanding 22-4 advantage in shots ... The Cardinal has reached the 15-win plateau in four consecutive seasons ... Over the last four games, Stanford has outscored its opponents 13-2. Three of those games have resulted in shutouts ... The Cardinal is 6-1 in neutral-site games ... Stanford has attempted 335 shots on the year (164 in the first half, 166 in the second half) ... The Cardinal has attempted 149 penalty corners this year (74 in the first half, 73 in the second half) ... Seven different players have scored at least five goals, led by Becky Dru's 11. Six different players have dished out at least five assists, with Dru and Hope Burke sharing the team lead with nine.