MPSF Title Secured
LOS ANGELES - No. 2 Stanford erased a fourth-quarter deficit and held on for an 11-9 victory over No. 1 USC, securing its sixth MPSF title in school history and first since 2014 on Sunday afternoon.
Stanford (22-2, 5-1 MPSF) claims the conference's automatic NCAA bid and will likely receive the No. 1 overall seed when the NCAA Championships get underway May 6-8 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Cardinal enters NCAA competition riding an eight-match winning streak and boasting a stingy defense, holding every opponent during that same stretch to less than 10 goals.
Ranked No. 1 for five consecutive weeks earlier in the season, Stanford proved to be the MPSF's most consistent team and collected its second victory in three attempts against USC (18-3, 6-0 MPSF). The Cardinal defeated the Trojans 16-10 in the semifinals of the Barbara Kalbus Invitational back on Feb. 26 but dropped a 10-8 decision at Avery Aquatic Center on April 2.
Sunday's contest was another back-and-forth affair between the nation's top two programs, with a fourth meeting in two weeks at NCAA's certainly a possibility.
Ironically, Stanford - which also claimed conference titles in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006 - had won four NCAA championships since its most recent MPSF crown in 2014.
Trailing 8-7 early in the fourth quarter, Stanford flipped the script following consecutive goals from Hannah Constandse, Ryann Neushul and Jewel Roemer over a two-minute stretch. The scoring outburst put the Cardinal in front 10-8 with 5:16 remaining and Chloe Harbilas added an insurance goal with three minutes left after USC crept closer.
Neushul produced a team-best four goals on six shots, also scoring twice in the first half to help Stanford take a 6-3 lead at the break.
Harbilas was Stanford's only other multi-goal scorer with two goals on three shots. Roemer was constantly setting up scoring chances, finishing with four assists.
Makenzie Fischer was held to just one goal but finished with three assists. Stanford's all-time leading scorer with 277 career goals, Fischer also now ranks fifth overall in MPSF history. Meanwhile, her 72 goals this season rank fourth on the Cardinal's all-time list.
Leading 3-2 after the first period, Stanford received three straight goals from Neushul, Makenzie Fischer and Harbilas before USC answered with two minutes left before halftime.
The third period belonged to the Trojans, who evened the game at 7-7 and then moved in front 8-7 following Paige Hauschild's fourth goal at the 7:22 mark of the fourth.
Maya Avital came up with six saves and moved into seventh on the Cardinal's all-time single-season list with 183.
Stanford Goals: Ryann Neushul (4), Chloe Harbilas (2), Hannah Constandse (1), Makenzie Fischer (1), Katie Lyons (1), Jewel Roemer (1), Sophie Wallace (1)