Stanford women seek their third national soccer title | News | Palo Alto Online |


Stanford women seek their third national soccer title

Catarina Macario has 32 goals and 23 assists this season. Photo by Erin Chang/

Stanford women's soccer team scores a lot of goals. The top-seeded Cardinal is at a nation's best 98, and counting, entering Friday's 6 p.m. national semifinal match against UCLA at San Jose's Avaya Stadium.

North Carolina, which meets Washington State (44 goals in 23 games) in another national semifinal, ranks fourth in total goals with 67 over 25 matches. UCLA, Stanford's opponent on Friday, has 52 goals in 23 games, tied for ninth.

Catarina Macario/DE
Stanford's top three scorers, Catarina Macario, Sophia Smith and Madison Haley, have combined for 57 goals. That's more than all but seven of the 335 NCAA Division soccer teams.

Scoring goals doesn't guarantee victory, though, as the Cardinal (22-1) found out when it couldn't reach the back of the net in a 1-0 loss to Pepperdine earlier in the season.

Shutting down potent offensive teams figures into the equation and that's where a team like North Carolina, with its 22 overall national titles, has the advantage.

The Tar Heels have a .760 shutout percentage and a corresponding Goals Against Average of .394, both among the top three in the country. The Cardinal is fifth and 11th, respectively.

North Carolina (23-1-1) still has to get through Washington State (16-6-1) and Stanford needs to get past the Bruins (18-4-1) and neither is a cinch.

The Bruins learn something about playing against Stanford and have never allowed the same player to beat them, although the Cardinal has a six-game winning streak against UCLA, with five decided by one goal.

"They’re a really great opponent and every time we play them, it’s tough," Stanford defender Naomi Girma said. "I think we just want to continue to grow off of the rest of Pac-12s and the beginning of playoffs.”

Macario, one of the best in creating her own scoring chances, has only scored in one of the four games she's played against UCLA. Haley has never scored and Smith has one goal against the Bruins.

Macario averages a national best 1.37 goals per game (32 in 23), one of only four players to average more than a goal per games and the other three are at home.

What sets Macario, other than just plain skill, apart from others is that she also leads the nation in assists per game at 1.00 or 23 in 23. If there's a point to be had, Macario is likely involved.

"The entire season I’ve been really proud of this team," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "I think they’ve played really attractive, attacking soccer. I think the group has been very cohesive, scored a ton of goals, they’ve shared the ball, it’s been from all different angles, so I’ve been really proud of the squad the entire season, and I’m excited that they get to showcase their skills in front of a lot of people at the College Cup.”

The Cardinal, on a 17-match winning streak, is making its 10th Women's College Cup appearance and is looking for its third national title.

UCLA has won nine straight since losing to Stanford. Teagan Micah (15-3-1) owns a 0.60 goals-against average and a 0.780 save percentage, having played 1,646:19 minutes in net this season.

Stanford owns a 2-9-3 all-time record against the Tar Heels, most recently a 2-1 overtime win in September of 2018 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.

North Carolina has won 12 straight since a scoreless draw against Duke and is unbeaten in 18 games since its only loss of the season at Arkansas in September.

Stanford is 24-3-2 against the Cougars, who beat No. 3 Virginia and No. 5 South Carolina to gain their first-ever College Cup appearance.

The Cardinal has played in nine of the last 12 College Cups and makes its fourth straight appearance.

This is Stanford's 22nd consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 29th in program history. The Cardinal has not missed the NCAA Tournament since 1997.

Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe enters Friday with a 51-12-4 career record in the postseason, having guided the Cardinal to the tournament in each of his 17 seasons.

Girma and Kiki Pickett have started every game on Stanford's back line. Sam Hiatt has started 20 while Jojo Harber and Kennedy Wesley have split the duties at left back.

Macario's 14 career postseason goals ties Christen Press for the program record and her 14 postseason assists are the most.

Stanford is 7-0-0 against ranked opposition this season with a 21-5 goal difference in such matches.

— Rick Eymer/Palo Alto Sports Online

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