Taylor Uhl's first-half header sparked Stanford to a 3-0 Pac-12 women's soccer victory over Colorado on Thursday night, while the Cardinal defense earned its national-leading 12th shutout of the season.
Uhl, the Pac-12's leading scorer last season with 12 goals, got her first of the season when she headed in Chioma Ubogagu's cross at the far post in the 39th minute. It was the 49th collegiate goal for the senior, who ranks No. 4 among active Division I scorers.
Lo'eau LaBonta extended the lead in the 59th minute with a low driving shot for her sixth goal of the season, and Lauren Schmidt, a senior out of nearby St. Francis High School, scored the first goal of her collegiate career by slotting in a rebound in the 89th minute for the final margin.
No. 4 Stanford (12-1-2 overall, 4-1-1) moved ahead of idle UCLA for first in the Pac-12, but the Bruins (3-0-1) have two matches in hand. Colorado (10-5) entered the match in a three-way tie for third dropped to 3-3 in conference play.
The goal was encouraging to Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe for two reasons: the team will need Uhl's scoring ability, and the setup was textbook Cardinal soccer.
"Taylor could be the difference for us down the line, getting into the playoffs and going deep into the playoffs, because she's a goal-scorer," Ratcliffe said. "If we get her hot at the end, she'd be fantastic to bring in and make a big impact."
On the buildup to that goal, outside back Laura Liedle made an overlapping run up the left side, pulling defenders away from Ubogagu, who took advantage of the extra space to measure her chip to Uhl.
"That's something we've been working on," Ratcliffe said. "We want to make sure players are making unselfish runs to create space for others. Laura made a really good run there, created a lot of space for Chi, and Chi made the right decision and went inside. And Taylor's one of the best I've seen at finishing the ball with her head."
Colorado, which was outshot 19-4, didn't get its first shot off until the 77th minute. Soon after, a header by the Buffaloes' Brittney Stark inside the six-yard box caught Stanford goalkeeper Jane Campbell leaning the wrong way, but central defender Andi Sullivan headed the ball off the line.
The Cardinal finally put the match away on Schmidt's goal. She had come close in the past, including this season, but this time put in a perfectly-placed shot from about 10 yards.
"If I didn't score, I would have never forgiven myself," she said.
"Lauren's an amazing player," Ratcliffe said. "She's worked so hard her whole career and I'm really happy to see her get a goal, in a Pac-12 game too, in a significant game.
Campbell earned her 10th shutout of the season and the 16th of her career, moving her into a tie with Erica Holland (2004-07) for No. 7 on Stanford's all-time list.
Meanwhile, Stanford's 12th shutout of the season moves the Cardinal in front of Wisconsin and Northeastern (11 each) for the national lead.
Stanford gets the weekend off and then travels to conference upstart Arizona (Oct. 24) and Arizona State (Oct. 26), before returning home against Oregon (Oct. 30).