Stanford reached the finals of the NorPac Tournament for a fifth straight year in 2002, only to fall one victory shy of reaching the NCAA Tournament. With a chance to host an NCAA Play-In Game on the line, Stanford won its first two games of the NorPac Tournament hosted by the Cardinal over East Division foes Davidson (3-1) and Radford (3-2). However, Stanford fell to arch-rival California (2-1, OT) in the championship contest. The Cardinal finished the regular season with a 10-11 overall mark, marking its third straight year with double-digit victories, and placed second in the NorPac West Division with a 4-2 conference record.
Stanford started the campaign with three straight victories, including a dramatic 1-0 overtime win over 2001 NCAA Tournament participant Ohio State in the season-opener. The Cardinal also opened up its NorPac schedule with a 4-0 mark after sweeping a pair of games from both Pacific and Saint Louis. Stanford's toughest stretches of the season came with a 2-5 record on its annual early-season East Coast road trip, as well as a three-game losing streak that began in mid-October and included a pair of 2-1 losses to NorPac champion California. In fact, each of Stanford's final eight losses were by a single goal.
Stanford was paced by four senior players that each earned All-NorPac honors for the first time in 2002. Amanda Billmyer, Amrit Chima and Christina Williams were all First Team selections, while Tysie Sawyer was a Second Team choice and also earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in the NorPac's West Division. Williams and Sawyer both added Second Team All-Regional and All-NorPac Tournament honors. Billmyer led the team and finished third in the conference with a career-high 23 points (10 goals, three assists). Chima (20 points - eight goals, four assists) and Williams (16 points - five goals, six assists) also added career-high points totals, while Sawyer picked up six points (three goals) and a pair of defensive saves. Chima added team-highs in defensive saves (five) and penalty strokes (two). Junior Noor Dawood (16 points - six goals, four assists), also an All-NorPac Tournament choice, scored more points than she had combined for in her first two seasons (15) and led the club with four game-winning goals, while junior Emily Zander's 1.65 GAA ranked second in the conference. Zander shared time in the net with freshman Ana Kralovec, who actually recorded a 1.34 GAA but did not have enough minutes to rank among the league leaders. Sophomore Eleanor Morgan contributed 10 points, while freshman Missy Halliday started all 21 matches and solidified the team's defensive midfield.
As a team, Stanford ranked second in the NorPac by averaging 1.90 goals per game. Defensively, the Cardinal allowed 1.57 goals per contest and recorded six shutouts.
"We had some great matches in 2002," summarized new head coach Lesley Irvine, noting that 12 of the team's last 14 contests were decided by a single goal. "It was heartbreaking to lose to California in overtime at the finals of the NorPac Tournament and have the season end so close to making the NCAA Tournament, but the players did everything we asked of them all season long."
The completion of the 2002 season also marked the end of an illustrious career for Sheryl Johnson, who retired after 18 seasons as the team's head coach. Johnson, who was selected to coach in the 2002 NFHCA All-Star Game held at the Final Four last November, led the Cardinal to nine NorPac titles and seven NCAA Tournament appearances while on The Farm. She was named NorPac Coach of the Year eight times and posted a 168-125-11 career record.