Card to Pac-12 Final
STANFORD, Calif. – Sixth-year senior Genesis Lucero, a veteran of the Stanford program since long before there was Pac-12 women's lacrosse, played a key role in Stanford's 18-11 victory over Arizona State in a Pac-12 Tournament semifinal on Thursday at Stanford Stadium.
Top-seeded Stanford (10-0) plays No. 3 seed Colorado (8-6), a 9-8 semifinal winner over USC, for the tournament championship on Saturday at noon, also at Stanford Stadium, in a contest televised by the Pac-12 Network.
Stanford pushed away the Sun Devils for the final time after No. 4 seeded Arizona State (10-6) cut a six-goal deficit to 13-10 with 8:27 left. Stanford answered when freshman Ailish Kelly converted a pass from Lucero to spark a run of four unanswered Stanford goals to ice the contest and advance to its first Pac-12 tournament final since 2018.
Ali Baiocco and Mikaela Watson led Stanford with four goals each and Kelly and Katherine Gjertsen had three apiece as Stanford avoided the craziness of their previous meeting against the Sun Devils, a 22-21 double-overtime Cardinal victory in Tempe on April 16.
For a couple of moments, it seemed the game could have gone in a different direction. That's where the value of Lucero was the most obvious. Lucero had 10 draw controls … 10! That ties her career-high – achieved twice before – and is the third-highest for a game in Stanford history.
There is no greater momentum swinger than a draw control and Lucero snagged two in a row and assisted on two goals during that 4-0 stretch. Lucero demanded ball and provided pinpoint passes on both of her assists. For example, on the sequence that gave Stanford a 15-10 lead, Lucero's pass led Gjertsen into an open space, and the opportunity for a great shot in front of the goal.
ASU was ready from the outset, slicing through Stanford's defense to take a 2-0 lead. After a four-goal Stanford run, ASU scored twice more to draw even. The first half was mostly nip-and-tuck, especially when the Sun Devils closed within 7-5 with 37 seconds left in the half.
But just when Arizona State showed an ounce of momentum, Stanford slammed the door, scoring two goals in the final nine seconds of the first half to build its lead to 9-5.
Moments after Watson scored her third goal in fewer than four minutes, this one with nine seconds left in the half, Lucero was on the draw. In a swift sequence, Lucero won the draw passed to Galen Lew, who found Watson, who found Baiocco to the left of the goal. In an instant, Baiocco fired the ball in to beat the buzzer.
That entire sequence of a draw control, three passes and a goal in nine seconds was a true marvel. Stanford celebrated as it ran into the locker room, and ASU never got closer than three again.
Stanford extended the best start in program history and its dominance over Arizona State, winning all eight contests. And another historical note: Even in an abbreviated season, Baiocco has 43 goals, which is tied for the 13th-highest in Stanford history. It's the third 40-goal season for the Cardinal senior.