No. 3 Stanford edges California 3-2
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Taylor Uhl and Lo’eau LaBonta scored back-to-back goals early in the second half to break a tie and lift Stanford to a 3-2 victory against California in a Pac-12 women’s soccer finale Thursday at Edwards Stadium.
Third-ranked Stanford (17-1-2 overall) finished conference play at 9-1-1 (28 points) and drew into a first-place tie with UCLA (9-0-1). However, the Bruins can earn the outright title with a victory or a draw Friday against USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Either way, Stanford, ranked No. 2 in the RPI, is expected to draw a top-four seed in the 64-team NCAA tournament and play host for the first four rounds, as long as the Cardinal keeps winning. The NCAA selection show will be Monday at 1:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. At the very least, Stanford will play a first-round match at home on Friday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.
“We hope we’ll get a No. 1 seed,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “That’s been the goal the whole season, and then we have to take advantage of our opportunity.”
Uhl and LaBonta each had a goal and an assist. For Uhl, it was her seventh goal in the past six matches. For LaBonta, it was her team-leading 11th goal of the season and her third consecutive match with a goal.
After scoring three or more goals only three times in its first 14 matches, Stanford now has done so in four of its past six – scoring 19 of its 47 goals in that span.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily something we can put our fingers on, but the seniors are definitely in this,” Uhl said of the team’s recent scoring outburst. “We want it really bad, and that always contributes. We’re definitely clicking and everything’s coming together at the right time.”
Uhl and LaBonta each played a role in all three goals. After Cal’s Celeste Boureille scored the first of her two goals – she also missed a late-game sitter – at 3:36 to give the Golden Bears (13-5-2, 5-4-2) the lead, Stanford tied it fewer than two minutes later.
It was only the second time Stanford had trailed all season. In total, Stanford has trailed for only 7:09, including both matches -- Cal and the 2-1 loss to UCLA on Oct. 9.
Uhl, who ranks No. 4 among active NCAA Division I scorers with 55 career goals, drew a foul just outside and to the left of the penalty area. LaBonta’s free kick deflected off the Cal wall to Uhl, who headed it into the goalmouth and into the path of Alex Doll. Her flick tied the match at 5:34.
The Cardinal broke the match open with two goals within 1:49 of the second half. LaBonta found room up a seam on the left side and sent in a centering pass that Uhl converted at the back post. Moments later, Uhl drew a penalty and LaBonta converted at 60:40.
“We treated this as a playoff game, because this was the last step in hopefully securing a No. 1 seed for the tournament,” Uhl said. “We wanted to come in, get a win, and take the game super seriously. We didn’t have the greatest performance, but we fought and found a way to get it done, and that’s what it’s going to take down the line.”
Stanford goalkeeper Jane Campbell made four saves, three of which were extraordinary. In the 29th and 31st minutes, Campbell made a diving save left and then a diving save right. Late in the match, she instinctively deflected a close-range shot over the goal.
“We wanted to end the Pac-12 season strong,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s always an emotional game against our rival Cal, especially at their place. Now, we’ll move on to the playoffs.”
Stanford now is set for its 17th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.