The Cardinal may have had the upper hand in recent years, winning the past seven consecutive meetings, but it's been anything but easy. And forget that season-opening 6-1 victory over Santa Clara.
The teams have four common opponents. Stanford went 4-0 against California, Boston University, Georgetown and San Diego State. Santa Clara went 2-0-2 against those same teams. The Broncos also own a scoreless draw against No. 2 BYU.
"It's obviously a huge game," Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe said. We know each other really well. We can use things we've learned from the past and realize it will be an emotional game."
The Broncos own an 18-14-5 advantage in the series with Stanford, including a 5-3 edge in NCAA matches.
"Hopefully we'll get some decent weather but the key thing is we're at home and I hope the fans come out and support us," Ratcliffe said.
Stanford owns a 64-match home unbeaten streak (62-0-2), second-longest in NCAA history. The last home loss was a third-round match in the 2007 tournament against Connecticut, a match in which current Team USA member Rachel Buehler played.
The Cardinal can boast of having one national team member on its current squad in senior Alina Garciamendez, who participates with Team Mexico.
Garciamendez is one of 10 seniors who have compiled a tremendous record of service over their college careers.
Stanford is 91-3-4 over the past four years, 49-0-1 at home and 40-0-0 in Pac-12 play.
In addition to Garciamendez, seniors include Annie Case, Lindsay Dickerson, Aly Gleason, Marjani Hing-Glover, Mariah Nogueira, Rachel Quon, Madeleine Thompson, Courtney Verloo, and Nina Watkins.
"We have a strong senior class that will give it everything they have," Ratcliffe said. "We're growing as a team and playing well. We realize this is a do-or-die situation now. We realize we are fortunate to get to this point. You only get so many chances. It was a great experience to win last year but we want to win again. There is no relaxing at this stage."
The winner of Stanford-Santa Clara will play Sunday at 1 p.m. against either Denver (16-2-4) or No. 9 Maryland (14-6-2), who play Friday at 4:30 p.m.
"Denver is a good team and well-coached. It's a tough pod," Ratcliffe said. "Maryland is always competitive and playing in the ACC toughens you up."
Maryland and Stanford played to a scoreless tie last year and the Pioneers beat Stanford, 1-0, the last time they played (in 2007).
Denver tied for the regular-season title of the Western Athletic Conference before losing in the WAC tournament final to Utah State, 1-0, on an own goal, ending a 19-match unbeaten streak.
The Pioneers are coached by Jeff Hooker, now in his 21st season. Hooker played on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and was a regular on the U.S. National Team in the mid-1980's. The former UCLA star never was a teammate of Ratcliffe in Westwood, but influenced Ratcliffe's decision to attend UCLA.
The Terrapins finished in a four-way tie for second in the ACC. They reached the third round of the NCAA tournament last year. Last year's tie with Stanford was the only non-win the Cardinal suffered all year.
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