Sept. 15, 2009

Courtesy of Stanford Athletics

STANFORD, Calif. - Thanks to a blistering 6-0 start, Stanford has cracked the Kookaburra/NFHCA National Coaches poll for the first time in two years while achieving its highest national ranking in school history at No. 14.

The Cardinal is off to its best start since winning six straight games to open the 2007 campaign. Stanford's best start in school history was a 7-0 debut back in 1976. The Cardinal can match that stretch with a victory at UC Davis (3-4) in its next game on Sunday, Sept. 20.

One of 11 unbeaten teams remaining in Division I, Stanford has raced out to a 6-0 mark thanks to a powerful offense and stingy defense. The Cardinal has scored at least three goals in a match five times already this year, including a 3-2 overtime upset win at No. 17 Iowa that recently completed a 3-0 road trip.

Prior to this week, Stanford had never been ranked higher than No. 19 in the nation. Two years ago Stanford experienced a similar 6-0 start to the season, and the Cardinal broke into the rankings at No. 19 and held down the No. 20 spot for the next two weeks. That was Stanford's first appearance in the national rankings since a No. 20 showing back in 2001. Stanford was also ranked No. 19 in October of 1997.

"We are excited to break into the top-20 this week," said seventh-year head coach Lesley Irvine, who has led the Cardinal to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. "We have had an excellent start to the season and it means a lot to our program to be receiving national recognition."

With nine returning starters from a program that entered 2009 as the two-time defending conference tournament champion, the early-season success shouldn't seem like much of a surprise. But now the program is receiving unprecedented national attention, and with several ranked opponents left on the schedule, Stanford will have more opportunities to move up the charts.

So what have been the keys to Stanford's 6-0 start?

# What Happens On The Road...
Winning on the road in past seasons has presented a challenge. Heading into this season, Stanford had not won more than two road games in an entire season and last posted a winning road record (4-3) in 2002. But the Cardinal just returned home with three road wins over a four-day stretch, highlighted by a 3-2 overtime upset of No. 17 Iowa. Wins over Northwestern and VCU- teams also flirting with the top-20- didn't hurt either. Eight of Stanford's 11 games left in the regular season are on the road.

# That Wasn't The Only Sweep...
In addition to its road sweep, Stanford swept the conference player of the week voting. Junior Jaimee Erickson was named the NorPac Offensive Player of the Week after scoring the game-winner against Iowa and leading the Cardinal in goals (2) and shots (5) during the road trip. Sophomore Alessandra Moss was named the NorPac Defensive of the Week for the second straight week, making 10 saves in the upset of Iowa and doing her part in a 3-0 shutout of VCU. And freshman Kelsey Lloyd racked up NorPac Co-Rookie of the Week honors, scoring the first goals of her career in both of her first two career starts.

# Among The Nation's Best So Far...
Stanford's current Average Computer Rating (the sport's equivalent to the RPI) currently stands at No. 7. The Average Computer Rating's top six teams (North Carolina, Princeton, Maryland, Virginia, Syracuse and Wake Forest) are all ranked seventh or higher in this week's national poll. Stanford has a chance to improve its standing as well, with games against Maryland, Louisville and Penn State remaining on the ledger.

# Dominating On Both Sides...
Stanford has outscored its opponents 20-5 and outshot its foes 90-46 through the first six games of the year. Nine different players have recorded a goal, led by Erickson's four scores. And the Cardinal has pounced on its opponents early, holding an 11-2 scoring edge in the first period. Moss has been stellar in goal, making 34 saves and notching a 0.83 GAA while recording two shutouts along the way.