March 27, 2009

Stanford Eyes Upset to Boost At-Large Hopes

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Junior Lauren Schmidt leads No. 14 Stanford with 17 goals and 10 assists. The Cardinal meets Johns Hopkins on Friday and No. 2 Maryland on Saturday.
© Stanford

Last year, Stanford lacrosse was a roller coaster ride, replete with thrilling peaks and whiplash-inducing curves.

This year, it’s more of a country drive, slow and steady progress through a pretty landscape.

Instead of a mid-season coaching change and top-10 upsets, the Cardinal (6-2, 4-0) is grinding through the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and trying to have faith that the big wins will come.

“We’re pretty solid as a coaching staff in what we believe,” said first-year coach Amy Bokker.

“We tell them to keep trusting it. If something doesn’t work out early, it doesn’t mean we have to scratch everything and start anew.”

Trust might be a hard thing to come by in Palo Alto, after the ponderous 2008 season. Longtime coach Michele Uhlfelder resigned midseason, leaving the team in the hands of two untested assistants. The Cardinal subsequently knocked off Notre Dame and Penn, and rose as high as No. 10 in the national rankings. Then came a disastrous East Coast swing with narrow losses to unranked William & Mary and James Madison that snuffed once-bright postseason hopes.

A new era began when Bokker was hired. She uses a diverse attack that has seven players with double-digit goal tallies. Juniors Dana Lindsay and Lauren Schmidt pace Stanford with 17 goals each, and the team averages 15.75 goals per game.

Those numbers have been good enough in the MPSF, where the Cardinal has outscored its opponents 75-16. But in a league without an automatic qualifier, the path to the tournament runs through Notre Dame, Syracuse, Maryland and North Carolina, who constitute Stanford’s ranked, nonconference opponents.

Thus far, the road has been bumpy. The Cardinal fell 18-7 at Notre Dame, and lost 15-10 to Syracuse.

While a 0-2 record against ranked teams is not ideal, Bokker found a lot to be happy about. Her team rallied from a 4-0 deficit to an 8-8 halftime tie against Syracuse, and Orange goalie Liz Hogan made 12 saves to preserve the lead. The game was closer than the final score indicated. Bokker took some chances to try to catch Syracuse, and they backfired. But that’s OK -- it’s part of trusting your system.

“I don’t want to lose by two. I’m not playing to keep it close -- we’re playing to win,” said Bokker.

Stanford begins its East Coast trip today, playing Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field. On Sunday, at 12 p.m., they’ll play at No. 2 Maryland. That’s a tall order, but Bokker thinks her team has figured out the key to beating the best.

“It’s been about trying to instill that level of confidence. We have a lot of great athletes and sometimes, if the plan isn’t working right at the beginning, we haven’t shown the confidence to stay with it,” said Bokker.

“There’s times when you gotta work out the kinks, and have the confidence to keep pushing.”

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