October 10, 2012

30 in 30: Will Stanford Restart Its MPSF Reign?

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Stanford freshman midfielder Paige Southmayd (32) scored a late goal to tie a game with Team Australia at US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes weekend in Palo Alto, Calif.
© Gani Pinero

Stanford's Cagan Stadium is one of the nicest venues in NCAA lacrosse. It has Bermuda grass, great seating and a not-quite-completed new locker room that will be ready by the time the Cardinal play their first 2013 regular season game.

It also has a banner chronicling Stanford's long history as the best in the West: 15 conference championships, some in now-defunct leagues like the Western Women's Lacrosse League and the Mountain Pacific Lacrosse League. But from 2005 to 2011, the Cardinal ruled the current Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), winning seven titles in a row. That came to an end last season, when Stanford fell to Oregon in the MPSF championship.

The 13-10 loss to the Ducks was a tough end to a tough year, which the Cardinal began with a preseason No. 9 ranking and ended with an 8-10 record, no MPSF title and no NCAA bid.

"There's part of them that wants to forget about last year, but that's also motivation for them," new assistant coach Lauren Schwarzmann said. "This whole athletic department, as a whole, is always speaking of championships, and our team is the same."

The squad has only two seniors and six juniors, but there is reason to see promise in the young Cardinal. At last weekend's Stars & Stripes event, they played Team Australia, and trailed 10-5 at the half. They rallied in the second period and freshman midfielder Paige Southmayd tied the game at 14-14 with 1:06 to play. In the end, Australia needed a game-winner from Marlee Paton — the Big East Midfielder of the Year from Loyola — to seal the win.

"We're bringing new people in. It might be a rebuilding year, but we're getting experienced and comfortable," said Lucy Dikeou, another freshman midfielder who scored two goals in the loss to Australia.

The Cardinal's comeback versus the Aussies was sparked by a seven-save second-half performance from junior goalkeeper Lyndsey Munoz. (Munoz is also a LaxMagazine.com blogger; click here for her insights into the game.) The Stanford defense has the benefit of experience. In addition to Munoz, senior Elizabeth Adam (31GB, 16CT) played in every 2012 game, and sophomore Caroline Scanlan (25GB, 13CT) started for most of the season.

Offensively, the Cardinal has further to go. Four of their top six scorers graduated, and the other two will miss fall ball. Junior Anna Kim was the MPSF Newcomer of the Year in 2011, and was the team's third-leading scorer (25g) in 2012, despite missing seven games due to a knee injury. Kim reinjured the same knee and did not play at Stars & Stripes, although she is expected to be cleared to play for the 2013 season. Sophomore midfielder Hannah Farr, the only returning first-team MPSF player on the squad, plays soccer for Stanford and does not participate in fall lacrosse events. (Farr has played in 12 of 13 games for the No.2-ranked Cardinal soccer team this season and got her first soccer career start in a 2-1 win over Pac-12 rival Arizona on Sunday.)

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With Kim and Farr out of the picture for fall, the task of scoring fell to the underclassmen like Dikeou and Southmayd. Two-way middies often have the toughest transition between high school and college, though, since they have to learn both sides of the ball.

"Obviously we want Anna to recover but it's probably a great opportunity for some of these younger middies to show what they have to offer and establish themselves on the team," Schwarzmann said. "It's a day at a time, trying to teach them the Stanford offense and the Stanford defense, and make sure they're in our systems while honing in on their individual skills."

The Cardinal plays a tough fall ball schedule. After hosting Australia, Team USA and local rival Cal this past weekend, they will travel to Georgetown and Navy for play days this weekend. They will face opponents like North Carolina, Syracuse, Towson and Virginia during that East Coast swing, and hosts their own fall ball event on Oct. 21.

When playing Team USA during Stars & Stripes, the Cardinal lost, 17-6. But Schwarzmann, a midfielder for the U.S. national team, saw something promising when the Cardinals made a three-goal run in what seemed like an inevitable rout. The team was fighting for every ball and cheering for every small victory.

"They were celebrating goals and not backing down. We watched the film from the U.S. game and there are a lot of teaching moments it," Schwarzmann said. "But Stanford can battle with anyone."

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