In the wake of its third consecutive loss, the Stanford women's soccer team will be further tested as it attempts to break out of its slump and turn its conference fortunes around.
The No. 5 Cardinal lost to USC, 1-0, in Pac-12 women's soccer action on Sunday night before a sellout crowd of 2,150 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium and in front of a national television audience.
Stanford (9-3-1 overall, 2-3-0) had not lost three straight since a streak that bridged the 2005 and 2006 seasons. It hadn't lost three consecutive at home since a four-match streak that bridged the 1986 and 1987 seasons, and the Cardinal had never lost three consecutive conference matches at home.
Stanford, the four-time defending Pac-12 champion, completes a five-match conference-opening homestand on Friday against Utah at 7 p.m. on Homecoming Weekend before embarking on four matches in the Northwest over the following two weekends.
"This team's lacking a little bit of confidence. If we get a goal, you could see a different team, because, obviously, they've proven they're pretty good in getting to this point, in how well they've done," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "They have the potential. But you have to have the confidence, you have to have the self-belief and you have to have the internal leadership and the desire."
USC (6-6-2, 1-3-1) scored on a far post header by Alex Quincey off a corner kick from Kayla Mills in the 59th minute. The goal stood despite 12 Stanford shots in the second half.
Chioma Ubogagu had a couple of dangerous chances, forcing a great save from USC goalkeeper Carolyn Stanley, who finished with eight, including a pair of outstanding ones.
Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Cox earned her first collegiate start, which was predetermined before the weekend, and had a pair of saves as Stanford outshot the Women of Troy, 15-8.
"Hopefully, we can bounce back," said Ratcliffe, who hadn't endured three losses in a season since 2007. "We have a lot of work to do. We're going to see their character now. If they're true champions, they're going to work harder and keep improving, and down the stretch we'll get stronger."
The Pac-12 plays a single round-robin, which makes things a little more difficult for Stanford as it makes a comeback prohibitive. Of course, the schedule has been that way for a few years.