March 12, 2014

WD1 Notebook: Stanford Ready for its Close-Up

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Players like soccer/lacrosse dual-athlete star Hannah Farr have anchored a solid start to Stanford's season. (Dirk Dewachter)

The Stanford women's lacrosse team entered this season ready to take the program to the next level after earning its first ever NCAA tournament win last year.

Now, the Cardinal appears well on its way to establishing its program as one of the nation's best.

Stanford (5-1) swung through the East Coast last week and picked up a pair of overtime wins over Towson and Georgetown, which were ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, at the time. The Cardinal's lone loss was a 16-15 overtime game against Vanderbilt on March 2.

"We've had some ups and downs, but I think we showed a lot of resiliency this past weekend," Stanford coach Amy Bokker said. "We really got our defense together these last two games, so we are really excited about where we are.

"We have goals to be in a final four. ... We knew the weekend would be tough but our players are focused and driven. We just need to show consistency in what we're doing and continue to play at a high level."

The Cardinal came back from a six-goal deficit in the second half against Georgetown and pulled off an 11-10 double overtime win Sunday — a credit to patience on offense and the defense stepping up.

Stanford's stingy defense especially had made a difference against Towson two days prior, as the Cardinal maintained possession the entire six minutes of overtime and held Towson without a shot for the game's final 17 minutes. Hannah Farr's free-position shot as time expired to end the first overtime period gave Stanford the deciding goal for an 8-7 win.

Goalkeeper Lyndsey Munoz finished with 17 saves over the two games.

"We really tried to focus on playing great team defense and playing as a unit, and we had a lot of great saves too," Bokker said. "Lyndsey did a great job these last two games."

Stanford has found its success on offense from a balanced attack. Each of the seven goals Stanford scored in the second half against Georgetown came from different players, and five players have eight goals or more. Rachel Ozer leads the team with 12 goals and five assists, while Meg Lentz adds 10 goals and one assist.

Bokker said the Cardinal also cut down on unforced errors that cost them the loss to Vanderbilt and the team has worked on taking the game at their own speed.

Stanford now is in the midst of a long layoff until the next game March 22 when it resumes Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play against St. Mary's.

"We're going to take some time to work on our ride and transition," Bokker said. "We have great speed, so we want to work more on our fastbreak. We're take the next 10 days practicing and focusing on us and just trying to keep our confidence up."

THE ADJUSTMENT PERIOD

The Cavaliers have played well against tough opponents but only have two wins in six games so far. (Cecil Copeland)

Virginia coach Julie Myers is taking the good with the bad during a 2-4 start to the season amid a brutal schedule, but said she sees this week as a chance for her Cavaliers to turn a corner.

The No. 17 Cavaliers have wins against No. 14 Penn State and unranked Richmond, while their losses each have been within four goals at the hands of top-ranked North Carolina, No. 3 Syracuse, No. 10 Northwestern and Loyola, which dropped out of the Top 20 this week. They now prepare for a pair of road games this week on Wednesday at William & Mary and Saturday at Princeton.

"We've certainly taken our lumps," Myers said. "We're in every game, but we've had a few too many mistakes at critical times. Every week were' getting better, and every week we are shoring things up. We're looking at the season as a long one. We know we need to get some wins, but ... I think we'll hit the ground running these next few games and carry it into the rest of the season."

Virginia veered from its traditional finesse game and turned to a more up-tempo, gutsy style this season with hopes it would translate to winning some of the tight contests the Cavaliers had not been able to pull out in the past. Myers said her team is still adjusting, but seeing progress.

Myers said she has been pleased with the number of draw controls and groundballs her players are winning, but the focus this week is to improve on shooting. The Cavaliers have made just 40.6 percent of their shots, the result of shooters "getting good looks but panicking a little," Myers said.

Attacker Courtney Swan leads the team in goals (18), assists (5) and draw controls (34), while Liza Blue (17 goals, 2 assists) has been solid in her return from an injury-riddled junior season.

QUICK SLANTS

Struggling Loyola (2-4) looks to get back on track as it hosts Towson on Wednesday. The Greyhounds have lost four straight — three decided by one goal — since opening with a pair of wins against ranked opponents.

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Navy junior Loren Generi leads the nation in points with 25 goals, 26 assists, while Florida's Shannon Gilroy is the top goal scorer with 35.

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Johns Hopkins' defense deserves much of the credit for its 7-0 start. The Blue Jays lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 4.57 goals per game. ... North Carolina boasts the top-scoring offense with 18.57 goals per game, a category Jacksonville has led the past three seasons. Jacksonville currently ranks 11th in that category with 14.86 goals per game.

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Fairfield senior Addie Reilly suffered a career-ending knee injury – her third ACL tear and second in two years – during a season-opening loss at Hofstra on Feb. 19. Reilly finished her career with 64 goals (including one against Hofstra) and nine assists in two-plus seasons. She had set a national single-season high school goal scoring record her senior year at The Portledge School (N.Y.) while tallying 132 goals and 52 assists, and her sister, Bairre Reilly, is a freshmen attacker on Maryland's 8-0 squad.


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