Stanford women will count on versatile Levin in Elite Eight


By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online

Stanford senior Camille Levin seems to pop up on the soccer field at all the right places and at all the right times and that's not an accident.

The 5-foot-3 defender-midfielder-forward had made it a habit of moving around the field and coming up big when her team needed some kind of spark.

"She's such a complete player," Stanford women's soccer coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "She's a difference-maker at outside back, she makes a huge difference at center midfield and she makes a difference in the front. It doesn't matter where you put her, she makes a difference."

Ratcliffe hopes she will be in the right place at the right time again Friday when top-ranked and top-seeded Stanford (22-0-1) takes on visiting Oklahoma State (22-1-2) at 7 p.m. in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.

Levin scored the game-winning goal in Stanford's 2-0 victory over Boston College on Sunday. Oklahoma State nudged Maryland, 1-0.

Levin and fellow seniors Lindsay Taylor, Teresa Noyola and Kristy Zurmuhlen are on the verge of a pair of major accomplishments. Should Stanford somehow get by the second-seeded and third-ranked Cowgirls, it would mean the seniors would have gone undefeated on their home turf (it's at 49 straight, and the unbeaten streak is 53) for their careers. It would also mean a fourth straight trip to the Women's College Cup after the school went 15 years between Final Four appearances.

The Cardinal also won its third straight conference title for the first time in program history and completed its third consecutive unbeaten regular-season.

There's only one other program in the country who can claim longer unbeaten streaks and North Carolina has 20 national championship banners hanging somewhere on campus to show for it.

The Tar Heels were eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen on penalty kicks.

Defending champion Notre Dame is also gone, losing to Illinois in the first round. Perennial Final Four participants UCLA was sent home, also on penalty kicks, in the second round.

No matter what happens the rest of the way, a first-time champion will be crowned, just the eighth since the beginning of the NCAA tournament in 1982.

Of the remaining eight teams, Stanford, Florida State, Duke and Central Florida have all been national runner-ups.

"We don't think too much about the winning streak particularly," Levin said. "It's amazing and its great not to have lost a game here, but ultimately it's about this next game."

Ratcliffe wasn't aware of the winning streak until this season and doesn't give it much thought either. He's more interested in getting his team ready to face the Cowgirls, who advanced to their second straight Elite Eight.

"To do what we've done with the streak is incredible just because of the parity in women's soccer," Ratcliffe said. "To get to this level you have to have experience to be successful. Great players emerge in big games. The senior leadership has been incredible. I can't say enough about what they've done for Stanford soccer."

The Oklahoma State athletic department has been through an emotional roller coaster recently, with the deaths of two women's basketball coaches in a plane crash. The Cowgirls soccer team nearly had their NCAA tournament game last weekend postponed but decided it would affect too many other teams and played.

Oklahoma State is looking for its first-ever trip to the Final Four in its sixth straight trip to the postseason.

The Cowgirl seniors own the fourth-best record in the nation at 75-13-10. Stanford has the best mark at 89-4-4.

With its 42-5-4 record, Oklahoma State has the second-most wins in the nation over the past two seasons. The Cowgirls' win total trails only Stanford, which is 45-1-3 over the same span.

Levin likely will play an important role in the game no matter where she plays. Boston College thought she was such a key player that they assigned a forward to try and neutralize her. The Eagles should know, they have seen their season end by Stanford three straight years.

"I just like to be on the field," said Levin, who has played every position with the exception of goalie during her playing career. "I played all over the place growing up in club, but mostly at outside back. I'm used to be thrown forward.

There's a little bit of difference in the positions, maybe coming at it from different angles, but I don't really think about it. I'm out there trying to do my best."

Levin has filled important shoes, replacing Rachel Quon and Courtney Verloo when they were injured the past two seasons. She's been named all-conference, all-tournament and all-American during her time at Stanford.

It's only fitting for an all-everything player like her.

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