The odds weren’t on ASU’s side when they headed into the Bay Area for showdowns against No. 11 Cal and No. 2 Stanford.
ASU soccer coach Kevin Boyd, in his seventh season, had never beaten his former school (Cal), and Stanford rarely loses.
In their last five seasons, Stanford lost six games, four of which came in the NCAA semifinals or later. Its last conference loss was in 2008, which entailed a 44-game winning streak, and its last home loss was a 2007 NCAA tournament game.
That incredible home streak spanned 73 games (70-0-3), and was the second longest in NCAA Division I history, behind North Carolina’s streak of 84 games from 1986-94.
In a three year span from 2009-11, Stanford lost just two games, both in the NCAA championship game. The Cardinal has qualified for at least the semifinal round in five consecutive seasons.
But for one game, none of those staggering statistics mattered. ASU (7-4, 2-1 Pac-12) went out and played its best game of the season and earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory, which came on the heels of a 2-1 loss at Cal (9-0-3, 2-0 Pac-12) on Friday.
“Going into the game we just talked about how we wanted to focus on us and playing our game,” redshirt sophomore goalie Chandler Morris said. “We didn’t focus on a lot of who we were playing; it was more playing our game the way we wanted to play.”
Maybe Stanford is not the same team of old as it looked quite vulnerable in the early season. The Cardinal needed overtime to take down Arizona (5-4-3, 0-3 Pac-12) on Friday, and half of their regular season games were decided by one goal or less.
But don’t tell ASU. It was its biggest win in program history for a program that needed a signature win. In 2001, ASU defeated No. 2 Stanford, but that was at home, and Stanford wasn’t as consistently excellent as they are now.
“It’s a great win,” sophomore forward Sara Tosti said, who scored the winning goal. “It’s so rewarding, total team effort. It wasn’t just one or two people; it was the whole team starting with Chandler and made its way up the frontline.”
The difference for ASU, which hadn’t beaten Stanford since 2003, and in Palo Alto since 1998, was the belief that it could pull off an upset of this magnitude.
“We tightened our defense and made everything they did difficult,” Boyd said. “That was a focus that we had: Don’t give them any space, and then we kept trying to get ahold of the ball in the attacking half. … I thought that we improved, but the further the game went on, their team started getting more and more urgent, and they started hitting long balls, which is not customary of their program at all.”
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Semerad served an automatic one-game suspension against Stanford because of a red card in ASU’s previous game.
Semerad took down a Cal player in the penalty box. The Golden Bears were likely going to score, and Morris was trying recover from a save she made a moment earlier. Morris blocked the shot but didn’t corral the ball, which led to a chaotic situation and the penalty.
The red card led to a penalty kick, which Cal’s Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick put away, and ended ASU’s upset bid. Fitzpatrick scored both goals against ASU with the winner penalty kick coming with four minutes remaining.
Reach the reporter at Justin.Janssen@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @jjanssen11