Women's soccer teams make late push for Pac-12 title

By the Pac-12 Conference

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As the end of the 2012 regular season draws nearer, three teams are still in contention for the Pac-12 title—Stanford, UCLA and California. The Bruins will host both Stanford and Cal this weekend, and it is possible that a Conference champion could be crowned on Sunday. Arizona, Washington and UCLA close out their home slates this week, and once again, three teams grace the top-25. Stanford reclaimed the top spot in the latest NSCAA poll. The preseason favorite relinquished its No. 1 ranking in late August but has reeled off 12 straight wins to climb back into the driver's seat. UCLA jumped to No. 2, marking the first time since November 8, 2011 that Pac-12 teams have been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the NSCAA poll (Stanford was ranked No. 1 and UCLA was No. 2 to close out the regular season in 20011). California, which sits at No. 21, is the only other Conference school ranked in the poll. Action resumes Thursday as Arizona State hosts Utah and Washington hosts Oregon live on the Pac-12 Networks. Thursday's games kick off a weekend in which six matches will air on the Networks.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
(Times local to site)

Thursday, October 25
Utah at Arizona State* (Pac-12 Networks) 7:00 p.m. PT
Oregon at Washington* (Pac-12 Networks) 7:00 p.m. PT

Friday, October 26
Colorado at Arizona* (Pac-12 Networks) 3:00 p.m. PT
No. 21 California at No. 2 UCLA* (Pac-12 Networks) 3:00 p.m. PT
Oregon State at Washington State* 3:00 p.m. PT
No. 1 Stanford at USC* 7:00 p.m. PT

Sunday, October 28
Utah at Arizona* 11:00 a.m. PT
No. 21 California at USC* 1:00 p.m. PT
Oregon at Washington State* 1:00 p.m. PT
Oregon State at Washington* 1:00 p.m. PT
Colorado at Arizona State* (Pac-12 Networks) 4:00 p.m. PT
No. 1 Stanford at No. 2 UCLA* (Pac-12 Networks) 6:00 p.m. PT

*-Conference game

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Stanford and UCLA meet for the second consecutive season as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country. Stanford has managed a league-leading 2.81 goals per game, offensively, and has outscored opponents by an average margin of 2.12 goals per game, while UCLA, which has posted 10 shutouts in 16 matches and leads the nation in goals-against average (0.38), claims a 1.94 advantage in average goal differential. The Cardinal closed out its 2012 home schedule with wins over Washington and Washington State. Stanford's senior class went unbeaten at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium, posting a 48-0-1 record at home (The class went 87-3-4 overall) over four seasons. Stanford, which has not lost a true road match in nearly four years, suffered its last road loss at the hands of the Bruins, falling 1-0 at Drake Stadium on October 31, 2008. UCLA and Stanford were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. 

Washington head coach Lesle Gallimore, who is in her 19th season at the school, has notched 198 wins as a Husky. With home games against Oregon and Oregon State this weekend, she looks to earn No. 200. She owns 230 career wins, a total that leads all active Conference coaches and ranks in the top 25 in NCAA history. Former Husky goalkeeper Hope Solo will be on hand for Thursday's match against Oregon. Solo, one of the most prominent figures in U.S. women's soccer, will be signing her new book, "Solo: A Memoir of Hope," prior to kickoff.

Oregon head Coach Tara Erickson returns to Seattle Thursday as the Ducks take on Washington. Erickson was a four-year letterwinner for the Huskies (1992-95), earning two first team All-Pac-10 nods and leading Washington to the first two NCAA tournament appearances in school history. She finished her career at Washington with school single-season records for goals (12), assists (12) and points (30) and still ranks among the top five in school history in almost every major career statistical category. She ranks third in UW annals in goals (27), fourth in points (74) and fifth in shots (175), assists (20) and game-winning goals (7). Washington head coach Lelse Gallimore, visited her alma mater (Cal) last weekend when the Huskies and Bears squared off in Berkeley.

Last week, former California forward Alex Morgan was awarded the prestigious Women's Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year Award for a team sport, given to an individual athlete in a team sport who exhibits exceptional performance over a 12-month span. Morgan, who is tied for third on Cal's all-time scoring list with 45 goals and ranks third with 107 career points, was an NSCAA All-American and Hermann Trophy finalist as a senior in 2010. She was a two-time first team All-Pac-12 selection, starting 61 of 67 games in which she appeared, and led the Bears in scoring in each of her four seasons on campus. Morgan was also a coveted member of the U.S. Women's national National Team that won Olympic gold in London earlier this year.

Colorado earned its first Pac-12 victory of the season in dramatic fashion, tipping USC 1-0 in double overtime. The Trojans have played in a school-record seven overtime matches this season, while Colorado has played in six matches that have called for extra time.

With a win over Arizona on Sunday, Oregon State brought its 2012 win total to 11. The Beavers have won 11 matches in each of the last four seasons and have reached the mark 11 times in program history. Sunday's win also marked OSU's highest scoring output since the Beavers took down Florida International in Corvallis in September of last season, 7-0.

Washington State scored two goals against Stanford last week, a feat no team has accomplished in Conference play since 2007. Moreover, the Cougars erased a two-goal deficit for the first time since 2005, and Stanford failed to maintain a two-goal lead for the first time since 1999. WSU forward Micaela Castain scored her 21st career goal to move into a tie for fifth all-time at Washington State. Her 10 goals this season are tied for second-most in the Pac-12.

A win or a pair of ties for Utah this weekend (or a win/tie combination) would guarantee the Utes their second winning season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

Streak Tracker: California is 7-0 in true road games for the first time in program history, while UCLA's road unbeaten streak sits ten games (The Bruins extended their overall unbeaten streak to 24 games). Stanford, which sits atop the Pac-12 standings, hasn't lost a true road match since October 31, 2008 when it fell to UCLA at Drake Stadium. The Cardinal also rides a 39-game Conference winning streak.

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