Stanford jumps into title game
Cardinal eyes third national title overall
SAN DIEGO -- Stanford is one step away from a national championship repeat following Saturday's 12-3 semifinal victory over fourth-seeded UC Irvine at Aztec Aquaplex in San Diego.
Stanford (25-2) will take on third-seeded USC, 12-10 winner against second-seeded UCLA in Saturday evening's second semifinal in the NCAA Championship Game.
Sunday will mark Stanford's eighth appearance in the NCAA title game. The Cardinal seeks its third national title, and second in a row.
Ashley Grossman's hat trick and a pair of goals from both Cory Dodson and Pallavi Menon paced the Cardinal Saturday. Cassie Churnside, Kaley Dodson, Alexis Lee, Alyssa Lo and Kiley Neushul all added goals.
Stanford's 6-on-5 unit was particularly in the zone, converting six of its 10 power-play opportunities against UC Irvine (25-7). The Cardinal also cashed in on all three of its five-meter penalty shots.
Goalie Kate Baldoni again anchored a solid defensive performance, stopping eight Anteater shots.
The Anteaters opened the scoring in the semifinal, drawing a five-meter penalty shot 55 seconds into the contest. Junior Jessy Cardey stepped up and buried the shot, putting the Cardinal on the wrong side of the score line for the first time in the tournament.
The Cardinal would waste little time finding an answer, as Grossman converted a 6-on-5 situation with her first goal just 47 seconds later. Menon netted her first on the power play at the 2:54 mark to give Stanford the lead, and Lee would record the Cardinal's third 6-on-5 goal of the frame with seven-tenths of a second remaining in the opening period, making it 3-1.
The assault continued without a hitch as the second period got underway. Grossman drew a penalty, which was converted by Neushul after just 20 seconds of action. Grossman added her second goal at 6:03 on yet another Cardinal power play, making it 5-1 and further frustrating the Anteater defense.
Churnside drew a second penalty at 4:51, and Kaley Dodson stepped up to convert and extend the Cardinal run to 6-0. UC Irvine would pull a goal back thanks to Katie Croghan nearly three minutes later, at the 2:09 mark, ending a scoreless run of 12:56. However, Menon would finish an entry pass from Churnside and grab her second 6-on-5 goal just 17 seconds later to get the Cardinal lead back up to five at 7-2.
Churnside would open the second half with a goal of her own, coming yet again on the power play. A third penalty shot would be made by Alyssa Lo at the 5:57 mark, making it 9-2 Stanford. Despite the Anteaters scoring their third goal with less than two minutes to go in the frame, Grossman would cap off her hat trick with 33 seconds to go.
Cory Dodson scored both Cardinal goals in the fourth period while Baldoni and the defense held UC Irvine scoreless to wrap up the win.