By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The top-ranked Stanford women's soccer team received the overall No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, which gets under way this weekend at various sites. The Cardinal (18-0-2) hosts Sacramento State (9-9-1) Friday at 7 p.m.
Long Beach State (14-5-2) and Santa Clara (12-6-2) also play in the first round at Stanford, with first kick scheduled at 4:30 p.m.
The winners meet Sunday at 1 p.m. for the chance to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
"The bracket looks good," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We're excited for the challenge. It's going to be competitive and every game is do-or-die."
Stanford is joined by fellow No. 1 seeds Portland, Maryland and defending national champion North Carolina, which edged Stanford, 1-0, in last year's final.
The Cardinal enters the tournament with a 31-match home winning streak and a 17-match overall winning streak, and has won its past eight NCAA tournament matches at home.
"We've got to take the momentum from the regular season into the playoffs, perform to the best of our ability, get positive results and move forward," Ratcliffe said. "The team's performing very well, but I expect us to get better."
Senior Christen Press leads the nation in goals (23) and points (53). She is Stanford's career leader in goals, points, and assists. Freshman goalkeeper Emily Oliver is third in the nation in goals-against average (0.299).
"I'm more excited this year," Press said. "It's my senior playoffs. I really want this senior class to go out on a good note."
Stanford is 11-0-2 against the NCAA field, which includes six Pac-10 victories. Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Arizona State, Washington and California also qualified for the tournament.
"We've seen a lot of the top teams," Press said. "It comes down to how you play."
Stanford hopes to reach its third consecutive Women's College Cup, and its second straight appearance in the championship match.
Sacramento State advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second time in its history, beating top-seeded Northern Arizona, 1-0, in the Big Sky Conference tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Elece McBride scored the winner in the 52nd minute and was named tournament MVP. Sacramento State, the Big Sky's third-place team, is led by senior forward Leah Larot, a San Jose product who has 10 goals and 21 points.
The Hornets only other NCAA appearance resulted in a 7-0 first-round loss at Stanford.
Schedule, Ticket information
Friday: Santa Clara (12-6-2) vs. Long Beach State (14-5-2), 4:30 p.m.; Stanford (18-0-2) vs. Sacramento State (9-9-1), 7 p.m.
Sunday: Winners at 1 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for youths and seniors. One ticket is good for both Friday matches. The first 50 Stanford students each day will be admitted free. The addition of 700 bleacher seats has expanded the capacity of Cagan Stadium to 2,200 for the tournament.
Tickets can be purchased on-line at gostanford.com, by phone at 1-800-STANFORD and (650) 723-1021, or at the Stanford ticket office (hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., PST) at the south end of Stanford Stadium.