Women's Soccer Game of the Week preview: No. 4 Stanford at No. 25 Washington State
Who: No. 4 Stanford at No. 25 Washington State
When: Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks, with J.B. Long and Aly Wagner on the call.
Two of the top-4 teams in conference play duke it out in primetime, as first-place Stanford looks to create major separation from the tied-for-third Cougars in the Palouse.
The Story so Far: No. 4 Stanford (12-2-0, 6-0-0 Pac-12)
After wrapping up a spotless three-game homestand that featured wins over the Oregon schools and Colorado, the Cardinal heads to the Pacific Northwest for a tough road test. Washington State and Washington are both on pace for NCAA postseason bids, and the trip up north has always been a difficult one for the Cardinal, even in its glory days.
It’s far from a foregone conclusion that Stanford will waltz its way to the Pac-12 championship with five games remaining and three teams within six points (USC, Cal and Washington State), but the Cardinal sure is in a good position. If it remains undefeated in conference play after this weekend, then the Cardinal will be tough to dethrone – Stanford plays its final three matches at home (albeit against tough competition – second-place USC, UCLA and tied-for-third Cal).
In addition to trying to secure its fifth Pac-12 title under Paul Ratcliffe, the Cardinal is also playing to host NCAA tournament games through the quarterfinals. The fourth-ranked Cardinal is No. 10 in RPI, but should get a boost down the stretch considering that four of the remaining five teams on its schedule are top-30 RPI sides. Since only four teams can host quarterfinal matchups, Stanford is going to need plenty of results from here on out to make sure it can stay squarely in the hosting-the-first-four-rounds conversation.
The Story So Far: Washington State (11-3-0, 4-2-0 Pac-12)
It has been a banner year so far for the Cougars, setting records on the field and in the stands. A 1-0 win at Utah gave the Cougs their 10th win by match No. 12, the fastest to 10 wins in program history. The fans have taken notice – Washington State has already set a season attendance mark with two home games to spare and set a single-game attendance record when 2,251 showed up to watch the Wildcats hand the Cougars their second conference loss.
So all is good on the Palouse, even if Wazzu did lose its last conference game to fall out of a tie for second with USC. And the Cougars are doing this with a new head coach in Todd Shulenberger who took over in April after Steve Nugent resigned one year in his tenure due to personal reasons. His first year as a head coach at the collegiate level, Shulenberger has made it a smooth transition in Pullman thus far, guiding the Cougs to more wins and more goals than they had all of last season (and there are still five matches plus the NCAA tournament to play).
At this point, it seems like a given that Washington State will make its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance save for a complete faceplant. A result or two against No. 4 Stanford and No. 14 Cal will only help the Cougs’ chances of hosting a first-round NCAA tournament game, something that looks like a very real possibility.
Three Players to Watch: Stanford
- #7 Laura Liedle (Defender, Senior) – The outside back has been a key cog of the Stanford defense ever since she arrived on campus and has also proved to be lethal in the attacking third. Liedle leads the team with four assists and delivered a beauty of a ball in the box to Tegan McGrady to give the Cardinal its first goal against Colorado.
- #10 Haley Rosen (Forward, Redshirt Senior) – She’s not the Christen Press/Kelley O’Hara/Lindsay Taylor bombs-away forward that we’ve come to expect out of Stanford strikers, but Rosen does find a way to have her foot on the ball on the edge of the box quite frequently and has a career-high nine points this season (three goals, three assists). She is also the team’s first option to take set pieces, so watch out for No. 10 on corner kicks and free kicks from 25-30 yards out.
- #5 Michelle Xiao (Forward, Freshman) – Look out for this speedster. Very adept with the ball at her feet, Xiao assisted on both of the Cardinal’s goals against Colorado and is now tied for second on the team with four goals and 10 points.
Three Players to Watch: Washington State
- #00 Ella Dederick (Goalkeeper, Redshirt Freshman) – The Oct. 13 Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week has played every second of the season in cage for the Cougs and paces the Pac-12 with 74 saves and boasts a conference-best .860 save percentage. She’s been busy this year and has stepped up to the plate in a major way.
- #11 Kaitlyn Johnson (Forward, Junior) – Tied for the team lead with six goals, Johnson scored in three straight games to start Pac-12 play, becoming the first Coug to do that since Micaela Castain (former Pac-12 Player of the Year, mind you) did the deed in 2013.
- #20 Kourtney Guetlein (Forward, Senior) – She might be a forward, but Guetlein is second all-time in Wazzu history with 19 career assists, needing just four more to tie the school record set by Beth Childs (she had 23 from 1998-2001). Oh yeah, she also has six goals this year (tied with Kaitlyn Johnson).
Three Notes to Know:
- Last time in Pullman – The last time these teams played at Washington State, the Cougars defeated the Cardinal 1-0, snapping Stanford’s 42-match road unbeaten streak.
- Treefense – If Stanford scores thrice, this game is over – the Cardinal has not conceded more than two goals in a match in 249 consecutive contests. The last time it happened was a 4-0 loss to North Carolina on Sept. 11, 2005.
- Front-runners in Pullman – Washington State has won 32 consecutive matches when leading at halftime, and it hasn’t lost a match when leading after 45 minutes since Oct. 29, 2010 at USC. Additionally, it has been 84 matches since Washington State has lost when leading at half at home. In other words, Stanford better not be trailing at the intermission if it wants to get out of Pullman with a dub.