In what was the first NCAA tournament lacrosse game ever hosted by a California school, Stanford put on a pretty good show. The No. 15-ranked Cardinal held off a good Massachusetts side 15-12 in a play-in game at Maloney Field on Saturday.
Unseeded Stanford (15-5) travels to play No. 5 seed James Madison (16-2) in Harrisonburg, Va., this Saturday at 10 a.m. for a first-round NCAA tournament game.
Stanford Women's Lacrosse coach Amy Bokker
There were 19 combined goals in the first half and less than half as many in the second 30 minutes. Stanford coach Amy Bokker didn’t care how the goals arrived, only that her club had more than the Minutewomen did at the final horn.
“University of Massachusetts came out physical and aggressive,” Bokker said. “They wanted to play uptempo. I told my girls I wanted them to win the hustle stats and we did. I wanted them to focus on each moment of play.”
The Minutewomen got on the board first when captain Merritt Cosgrove, the only player on the UMass roster from California, scored in the first minute. Cosgrove, however, got her second yellow card a few minutes into the second half, which banished her to the sideline for the remainder of the match.
Stanford tied the score 1-1 on a free position shot by Karen Nesbitt. Amanda Schwab’s unassisted goal gave the Cardinal a 2-1 lead. The Minutewomen tallied three straight goals to go up 4-2. Claire Hubbard broke Stanford’s silence with a nice assist from Sarah Flynn.
Minutewomen goalie Katie Florence made two tough saves in succession, but she couldn’t stop the first of five goals from Flynn, which came midway through the first half. The match went back and forth until Hubbard ran with the ball on the stick behind the Massachusetts goal before scoring. The goal put Stanford up to stay at 7-6.
Late in the first half, Massachusetts coach Alexis Venechanos lobbied hard with the sideline referee against a charging call that went the Cardinal’s way. Bokker, not to be outdone, chimed in with a few words of her own.
“Their girl is always hacking at our stick,” Bokker told the ref. “I want to put my piece in there, too.”
“What did she protest?” Venechanos asked the ref, who was suddenly caught in the crossfire.
Moments later, Flynn scored with an assist from Lauren Schmidt, recently tabbed the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation player of the year for the second straight season.
Jackie Lyons assisted Nina Sarcona right before the half ended to cut Stanford’s lead to 11-8 at the break. Lyons, who had three goals in the game, is the Atlantic-10 player of the year.
Schmidt opened the second half scoring with one of her three goals. In one of the great sequences of the match for Stanford, Eleanor Foote stole the ball then started a transition goal. The ball went to Leslie Foard, who threw a tremendous pass to Flynn, who put a shot past Florence. That wasn’t easy to do for Florence had 11 saves in the game.
“Flynn was exceptional,” Bokker said. “So was the whole defensive unit. They kept the pressure on them.”
In the 39th minute, Schwab juked a defender then scored on a low shot for 14-9, the biggest lead of the day for the Cardinal. Schmidt’s goal in the 49th minute finalized Stanford’s scoring.
“It was an intense game,” Venechanos said. “That was a high-scoring first half. I felt we made some adjustments and came back, but we had some costly turnovers. Stanford hurt us with their transition offense.”
Annie Read was solid in goal for the Cardinal with six saves. The victory, a school single-season record 15th, was Stanford’s first NCAA win ever. Stanford lost at first-round match at Northwestern in 2006 in its only other NCAA tourney appearance.
“This win was great for our program,” Bokker said. “We’re going in the right direction.”