Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 15 Stanford (Women)
Led by one of the best breakthrough players of 2015, the Stanford women's lacrosse team hopes to buck its one-and-done trend in the NCAA tournament.
Lucy Dikeou assumes the role of the Cardinal's undisputed star, the central figure of the nation's top-scoring offense.
Stanford at a Glance
2015 Record: 15-3
3 Big Things
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The Cardinal not only took more shots last year than in previous seasons, but also they were more effective with their shot selection. Stanford has been focusing on taking higher-percentage shots, and Bokker hopes that continues as her team potentially gets more opportunities to utilize its speed on offense.
1. Stanford returns a ton of players.
The defense was the only position with starting spots open, but the two projected to fill those holes — Madison O'Leary and Alexa Mullins — have some game experience. Hannah Farr and Rachel Ozer are big losses on attack, but the Cardinal figured out how to overcome losing Kelsey Murray when she was sidelined just four games into the season. Murray's return, plus Lucy Dikeou's continued emergence in the midfield and a cast of experienced sophomores should help keep Stanford's attack going smoothly. "We have a lot of good options in our offensive end," Bokker said.
2. They win the draw outside of the center circle.
Stanford doesn't have one dominant player on the draw, but led the nation last year with 16.28 draw controls per game. Bokker emphasizes earning possessions outside of the circle. "We have gotten a lot tougher on the outside," Bokker said. "Those players have done a good job of competing and really fighting for possession." Dikeou (64 draw controls) and Kelly Myers (54) are key players in that effort.
3. Expect some new looks on defense.
Stanford has implemented new zones and different scheme on defense and different schemes to keep opponents guessing. "We take a lot of pride in our smarts here at Stanford, so we are trying to utilize that to the best of our ability on the field," Bokker said. This is one of the fastest defensive units Bokker has had. Look for the Cardinal's defenders to get pressure on attackers and add to the transition game.
* returning starters
The senior midfielder led Stanford in goals (48), points (63), ground balls (34), draw controls (64) and caused turnovers (24) last year and was the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's only nominee for the Tewaaraton Award. A member of the U.S. national team, Dikeou is quick, confident and "just a complete midfielder," according to Bokker.
Salemo originally was recruited to play for the Cardinal coming out of Heritage (Colo.) High in 2011, but she was forced to take a medical leave of absence and just found her way back. Salemo, a former U.S. U19 team player, stayed around the game through coaching, and Bokker said she had a great fall. "She's an awesome addition to the attack, and we're looking forward to seeing what she can do," Bokker said.
A left-hander with explosive speed, Schoen played in all 18 games last year as a freshman and will be seeing significant time this year in Stanford's midfield lines. She had 10 goals, five assists and 10 caused turnovers in 2015. "She can create a lot of opportunities with her dodging," Bokker said.
Biggest Question Mark
Stanford knows what Murray is capable of, but she is coming back from an ACL tear that sidelined her for all but the first four games last year. Murray, who returned to practice at the end of the fall, already had 15 goals and nine assists when she went down last year. "You wouldn't notice her as a dominant player because she's kind of a sleeper who is really opportunistic, and that's how she gets all her goals, but she reads well and is super smart," Bokker said.
Kelsey Murray was off to a strong start before tearing her ACL four games into the 2015 season.
What rival coaches say about the Cardinal
"Disappointing exit last year from the playoffs, but still the class of that conference by far. Just get in the tournament and see what happens from there."
"Top team in the MPSF. Will battle for the top spot against USC. Graduated leading goal scorer. Best team out west."
"The Cardinal seemed solid through most of the 2015 season until running into Florida in the NCAA Tournament. While Lucy Dikeou is back, Stanford needs to figure out how to replace a pair of stars in Farr and Ozer."
"Always consistent and certainly well-coached."
"She has a lot of height, and a lot of good kids on that team."
"They return Kelsey Murray, a kid from Chicago who tore her ACL. I feel like she is their quarterback and makes their offense pretty lethal. They do play a balanced game. They return Lucy Dikeou, as well, and she is the ultimate two-way middie. She is fast, gritty and gets ground balls, so she is someone you'll have to contain. They traditionally get top recruits every year. They graduated a soccer player that was pretty awesome in Hannah Farr, but we're expecting a pretty talented group around the field. I think they will continue to compete for MPSF championships every year."
"A very detail-oriented program. They have players that are really well-disciplined and really patient and poised. You have to play your best game to compete with them — and that's across the board. They're going to have a ton of confidence coming off last year, so we know we'll have to bring our best to compete."
The number of unforced errors per game the Cardinal had last year, which was slightly higher than the year before and something Bokker said is an emphasis on cutting down this season. To put it in perspective, two-time defending NCAA champion Maryland had just 8.7 turnovers per game, while playing a more difficult schedule.
13 @Notre Dame
16 St. Mary's
21 Ohio State
20 Penn State
26 @Stony Brook
March 20 vs. Penn State
The Cardinal will be anxious for a rematch of last year’s 17-15 loss at Penn State. They had a six-goal lead and blew it in the last 10 minutes in the first-ever meeting of the two programs. This time, Stanford plays the Nittany Lions at home, right before heading on the road to face Johns Hopkins and Stony Brook in back-to-back games.
U.S. World Cup team veteran Kristen Carr joins Bokker’s staff as an assistant after spending the 2011-14 seasons on the staff at Delaware. A former defensive middie at North Carolina, Carr set program records for draw controls in a career (174) and single season (64), and Bokker worked with her on the defensive end with Team USA.
Three years ago, Stanford earned its first NCAA tournament win, but hasn’t been able to get past the first round since. The Cardinal has the experience to break that trend this year and could make a run with a chance to host.
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