By Dave Kiefer
Taylor Uhl, the nation's leading scorer last season while playing for the University of Minnesota women's soccer team, has transferred to Stanford and be immediately eligible to play this fall.
As a sophomore in 2012, Uhl scored 21 goals and had 9 assists for a national-best 51 points while leading the Golden Gophers to an 11-7-2 record and a berth in the Big Ten Conference tournament. Uhl scored or assisted on 68 percent of the team's 44 goals and was named an NSCAA third-team All-American.
On Monday, the last of the paperwork was completed, including the receipt of a waiver from Minnesota that allow Uhl to be immediately eligible. Unlike football, basketball, and ice hockey, there is a one-time transfer exception. This means that if an institution has no objection, the student-athlete does not have to sit out a year.
"It was a huge need for us," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We've been looking for a goal-scorer and a prominent forward, and she's one of the best in the country. We're really excited that she's coming to Stanford."
At Stanford, she'll join a frontline that returns all three starters, including its top two scorers -- fifth-year senior Courtney Verloo (10 goals, 11 assists) and junior Chioma Ubogagu (5 goals, 11 assists), an All-Pac-12 first team selection. The Cardinal finished 21-2-1, reached its fifth consecutive NCAA College Cup and won its fourth consecutive Pac-12 title.
"I expect to come in and earn my spot and earn respect," Uhl said.
Uhl is a 5-foot-9 forward from Eden Prairie, Minn., and was a four-year letterwinner in basketball and soccer, and also earned three in lacrosse and one in track at Eden Prairie High. She was the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year for soccer and was spotted by Ratcliffe at a regional tournament and contacted by the Cardinal coach, but already was too far along in the recruiting process and signed with the Gophers without visiting Stanford.
But Uhl, a biomedical engineering major at Minnesota, reconsidered and asked for a release from her scholarship in mid-April.
"Stanford is obviously a top academic and athletic school," Uhl said. "That was something I was looking for."
On the day that her release went through and she was allowed to contact other schools, Uhl e-mailed Ratcliffe.
"I remembered her straightaway and I contacted her immediately," Ratcliffe said. "Once I got the release in hand, I e-mailed her as quickly as I could. I always remembered, I always liked her, and I followed her through her career at Minnesota. She's had a phenomenal first couple of years and we're hoping her last two will be even better."
This time, Tayor and her parents, David and JoEllen, made the trip, which clinched the deal.
"I loved the campus and the atmosphere," Uhl said. "It was, honestly, too good to be true in my mind."
It also almost seemed too good to be true for Ratcliffe, who had been seeking a high-scoring forward since the graduation of 2011 Soccer America Player of the Year Lindsay Taylor.
"It's very important in the game," Ratcliffe said. "You can have a good team, but if you don't have natural goal-scorers, that can prevent you from competing for a national championship."
In two seasons with the Golden Gophers, she scored 36 goals and passed for 13 assists. In addition to her All-America honor last year, she was named NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region, and to the All-Big Ten first team and Big Ten All-Academic team.
At Stanford, her role will not change.
"My role is to score goals," Uhl said. "I feel I can get behind the defense for breakaways and use my speed to my advantage. I know how to put the ball into the back of the net. The goals may not always be pretty, but that doesn't really matter."
Ratcliffe described Uhl as "a dynamic, powerful forward. Hopefully, she'll be similar to (Stanford national players of the year) Christen Press, Kelley O'Hara, and Lindsay Taylor, who were scoring 20 goals or more in a season.
"She's fast, skillful, and, most importantly, she scores goals, which is like gold."
Uhl prides herself on her composure in front of the net.
"For me, everything slows down," Uhl said. "For others, it speeds up and they tend to panic. The mental aspect is such an important part of scoring goals."
Uhl already has completed the spring semester at Minnesota and is spending the summer playing for the Ottawa Fury of the semi-pro W-League. She has never played with anyone on the Stanford team, but has gotten support since announcing her transfer on Twitter, including a "Welcome to the team! So stoked!" response from goalkeeper Emily Oliver.
"I'm happy we're getting a second chance," Ratcliffe said. "Not many times in life you can say get a second chance. And this is a second chance for me to coach her and a second chance for her to come to Stanford."
Uhl, who will major in bio engineering at Stanford, will join her new teammates in reporting to fall camp on August 6 and will first introduce herself to Stanford fans at a home scrimmage on Aug. 17 against Grand Canyon. The Cardinal opens the season in earnest on Aug. 23 at Boston College and officially opens its home season on Aug. 31 (7 p.m.) against Portland.
"Taylor's a fantastic person," Ratcliffe said. "She's going to be a great fit for Stanford, both academically and athletically."