The Women's Soccer Race Unfolds
The biggest matches of the Pac-12 women's soccer season take place this weekend, and the Pac-12 Networks will be there to show every minute of the action.
Much could get resolved this weekend in the three-team race for the conference championship. First, No. 2 UCLA hosts No. 21 on Friday at 3 p.m. before the Bruins then welcome No. 1 Stanford for arguably the match of the year in college women's soccer on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Stanford leads the Pac-12 standings with a perfect 8-0-0 mark (14-1-1 overall) but UCLA is right behind at 7-0-1 (14-0-2 overall). Cal, meanwhile, still has a shot at the conference crown if it can win out. The Bears are in third place at 7-1-0 (14-3-0 overall).
Stanford and UCLA were the overwhelming preseason favorites in the conference but Cal has added a wrinkle to make the race even more compelling.
"I'm not surprised," said Pac-12 Networks analyst Tammy Blackburn, who will call Sunday's match. "Some people will say it was always about Stanford and UCLA, but that's not what I was saying at the beginning of the season. The coaches in this conference are recruiting and playing top nonconference schedules. They are preparing to go up against the Stanfords and UCLAs of the world."
While UCLA is no doubt looking forward to its showdown against Stanford, it can't look past the Bears. Cal has won eight in a row and 12 of 13, and boasts the 12th-ranked offense in the nation (2.47 goals per game). The Bruins, meanwhile, lead the country in defense, allowing just 0.365 goals per game.
"I think Cal can pressure them a little bit and maybe capitalize in some areas, maybe off a set piece or if a midfielder serves up a nice ball," Blackburn said. "But UCLA is committed to both sides of the ball."
It's been all wins this season for the Bruins except for ties against Loyola Marymount and Washington State. Stanford's only loss came to West Virginia at the Penn State Invitational. The Cardinal also played Boston College to a tie at home.
Stanford has won 39 consecutive conference matches.
Blackburn says Stanford and UCLA's similar style of play make Sunday's game hard to handicap.
"I think it will be a 1-0 victory," Blackburn said. "I wouldn't be surprised if it goes into overtime. You just have so many similarities, and there is a lot at stake."