The Stanford women's lacrosse team earned its fifth NCAA tournament berth in six years by beating USC, 16-11, in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament final Sunday.
Later Sunday, the Cardinal (15-2) learned it will play Florida (14-5) in the first round of the 26-team NCAA tournament on Friday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The winner plays No. 2 seeded North Carolina (15-3), which has a first-round bye, on Sunday for the right to advance to the quarterfinals.
Stanford and Florida, the Big East champion, have met once with Florida winning 13-11 in the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament. An interesting sidelight: Stanford freshman Madison O'Leary is the daughter of Florida coach Amanda O'Leary.
North Carolina won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title before losing in the tournament final to Syracuse in double overtime, 9-8. The Tar Heels have won both all-time meetings with Stanford, but the two haven't played since 2009.
By winning the MPSF tournament, Stanford completed a perfect conference season undefeated record and tournament title for the ninth time in its history and first since 2011.
Stanford freshman midfielder Kelly Myers earned tournament MVP honors for her performances that included a combined nine goals and eight draw controls.
Myers, taking Stanford's draws, helped the Cardinal to a 21-7 draw advantage against the Trojans. Stanford leads the nation in draw controls.
Myers scored three goals and had four draw controls on Sunday, but her first two goals were the biggest, resulting in the first scores of the game and helping stake the Cardinal to a 3-0 lead.
Stanford never trailed, but lost the lead when USC tied the score, 5-5, on a Gabby McMahon goal with 24 seconds left in the first half, capping a 4-1 Trojan surge.
The turning point came moments later when Stanford senior Hannah Farr, who had just thrown the ball away, intercepted a USC pass at midfield with 10 seconds left and charged upfield. Farr drew two defenders and passed to Mackenzie Tesei on the left for a quick shot that struck net with one second left.
Stanford maintained the momentum from Tesei's go-ahead goal. Over the next 5:19, Stanford, which won the first four draw controls of the half, scored four more goals.
The Cardinal took a 10-5 lead when Lucy Dikeou drew a defender and found Alexandra Crerend slicing across the middle for a quick shot.
USC, which received an NCAA at-large berth and a first-round meeting with James Madison, closed to within four goals three times down the stretch, but each time Stanford responded with a goal.
Farr scored a team-high four goals and had an assist, and Crerend and Rachel Ozer joined Myers as three-goal scorers.
Senior defender Rachel Kalick had four groundballs and Allie DaCar made seven saves for Stanford, which was playing in its 18th consecutive tournament final.