(25) Arizona vs (2) Stanford – 10:00 PM
Stanford will try to keep the pressure on UCLA at the top of the table, while Pac-12 surprise package Arizona will try to snag an upset to boost hopes of a top half finish and a first round home match in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will have it all to do based on recent evidence, as they’ve been dismantled, at least defensively, in their past two matches with two of the league’s kingpins this season, Washington and UCLA. To be truthful, the club’s last match, against the Bruins on their Senior Night, was a lost cause, as the defending national champs seemed hellbent on sending a message in the club’s last regular season home match of the season and put a beating on Tony Amato’s side to the tune of a 6-0 scoreline. It was the fifth time the Wildcats have given up multiple goals this season, and more worryingly, the third time it’s happened in six league games. Almost as worrying has been the sudden downturn in the offense, with the club having been shutout in its past two defeats, as well as in the league opener against USC. Gabi Stoian hasn’t scored in the past three, and keeping her firing in front of goal will be key to an upset on Friday night. Stoian’s goals aren’t going to be enough if the defense can’t tighten things up though. The club’s defensive record against top teams is a worry, and Friday would be a fine night to set things right.
After a dominating 3-0 win over Colorado back on The Farm last week, Stanford returns to the road for two games against the Arizona schools this weekend. The Card haven’t skipped a beat since their gut punch of a defeat to UCLA, shutting out both USC and the Buffs in dominant fashion. Stanford, with four wins over teams in the RPI Top 16 have pretty much clinched a #1 seed already unless they collapse down the stretch, but there’s still plenty of motivation to keep playing hard in case UCLA slips up in the race for the Pac-12 title. Some of the quieter names in the Stanford lineup were on the scoresheet against Colorado, with Taylor Uhl and Lauren Schmidt each netting their first goal of the season in the easy win. The defense was as dominating as ever, conceding a single shot on goal in the win. Considering how silly Stanford’s defense has made many an attack look this season, there’s no reason to think that the Card can’t put the clamps on Arizona’s offense on Friday. With a potent Arizona State side waiting on Sunday though, efficient use of his squad will be key for Paul Ratcliffe all weekend. If the Card can rush out to a quick lead and put the squeeze on, so much the better for the Palo Alto side.