Aug. 24, 2010
Three To Watch | Five Storylines To Follow
No. 20 Stanford Cardinal (0-0, 0-0 NorPac)
Pacific Tigers (0-0, 0-0 NorPac)
Date: Friday, Aug. 27
Site: Stockton, CA
Time: 4 p.m.
STANFORD, Calif.- Fresh off its best season in school history, No. 20 Stanford (0-0, 0-0 NorPac) kicks off its 2010 campaign on Friday afternoon against Pacific (0-0, 0-0 NorPac).
Even though the Tigers are a familiar foe, the contest represents a rare debut. For the first time in 10 years, not only will Stanford open its season away from home, but the Cardinal will also be taking on a conference opponent in its first game. It worked out just fine back in 2000, with Stanford blanking NorPac rival Davidson 2-0 to begin a three-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, a lot of things worked out for Stanford in 2009. The Cardinal enjoyed its best season in program history, establishing a school record with 17 victories while capturing the NorPac Tournament championship for the third straight season. Stanford won its second NCAA Play-In game in three seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in school history. Stanford's record-setting season was due in large part to its high-powered offense, as the Cardinal established single-season school records in goals (87), assists (60), points (234) and shots (410).
A fixture in the national rankings for more than two months last year, it appears the rest of the nation has taken notice of Stanford's rise. The Kookaburra/NFHCA Preseason Poll was released Tuesday morning, with the Cardinal checking in at No. 20. Earning a national ranking prior to the season is essentially unchartered territory for Stanford, which has typically been one of the first schools included among those receiving votes.
In past seasons, the Cardinal would need to put together a hot start (last year's blistering 8-0 debut, for example) to even merit consideration among the top-20. But thanks to this year's preseason ranking, Stanford now has an opportunity to climb in the poll if it can duplicate last year's early success.
And despite the loss of an impressive six-member senior class, Stanford figures to boast a powerful offense again in 2010. That's because five of the Cardinal's top-seven offensive players from a year ago are returning, including the top-three point-producers in Xanthe Travlos (team leader with 17 goals, 38 points and 70 shots), Becky Dru (13 goals, 33 points, 67 shots) and Jaimee Erickson (8 goals, 14 assists, 30 points).
The Cardinal will be led by a new-look coaching staff, headlined by first-year head coach Tara Danielson. A member of the U.S. National Team who has trained and competed at the Olympic level from 1998-2006, Danielson had previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of RUSH Field Hockey, Inc., a non-profit public benefit corporation committed to fostering the growth and development of field hockey in the Southern California region. Danielson is the sixth head coach in the history of the program and replaces Lesley Irvine, who chalked up a 69-73 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances in seven years at the helm.
Joining her at the helm are assistants Patrick Cota and Steve Danielson. A current member of the U.S. National Team since 1999, Cota has also competed on the U.S. men's junior national team. One of the most accomplished players in the history of the sport, Danielson has enjoyed a successful international playing career that spans 21 years combined in both outdoor and indoor field hockey. In addition to competing from 1989-2010 as a member of the U.S. National Team, Danielson's international outdoor playing career included representing Team USA at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
After posting a pair of victories in scrimmages against Pacific and California over the last two weeks, Stanford appears to be in top form heading into Friday's lid-lifter. The Cardinal hosts UC Davis, another conference opponent, on Friday, Sept. 3, in its home opener at 7 p.m.
Those two league contests will be critical as Stanford looks to take early control of the NorPac standings. Stanford has won seven in a row against Pacific, last suffering a loss to the Tigers back on Sept. 30, 2006. UC Davis predictably struggled in its transition year to Division I in 2009, with Stanford sweeping the season series and outscoring the Aggies 16-2 in two meetings.
Stanford faces arguably its biggest early challenge with a Labor Day tilt against Michigan State, currently ranked No. 7 in the country. The Cardinal is slated to play just five home games this year, making next week's homestand that much more important following the season opener.