Saturday, September 10, 2011

Super Stanford Sports Day Recapped!

C and R just had the most enjoyable Friday night at Stanford that didn’t involve women’s basketball. What we did see was the Stanford Women’s Volleyball team beat four-time defending champs Penn State and the Stanford Women’s Soccer Team beat defending champs Notre Dame. Glorious weather on campus, supporting two women’s sports teams and two victories, what could be better? Let’s recap, shall we?

When we got to the Stanford campus, as we mentioned, it was a warm sunny Nor Cal day. (And we discover women’s field hockey is also playing, but there are only so many games we can see! They beat Indiana 3-2 in their home opener). A long line was waiting to get in the soccer stadium for two games in the Stanford Nike Invitational. We love so many were here to support women’s soccer. Local team Santa Clara was getting ready to play UC Irvine, then the second game of Stanford and Notre Dame. The Stanford men’s played in a game right before and as it was ending, we talked to an usher who said that game was free, because there wasn’t any demand for the men’s tickets, but the women’s games were sold out, so they had to clear the stadium to let in the paying customers. Wow, we never thought we would see that day coming!

We saw the Santa Clara team warming up outside the stadium, and our first thought was, “Look for Brandi Chastain!” She is married to the Broncos head coach and is an unofficial coach for the team. We thought we saw her helping the team warm up, but she still has her playing day physique, and most of the players have the blonde pony tails, so we couldn’t tell if it was wishful thinking on our part or not. So we tweeted we saw her anyway!

While we were marveling at that fact, we met the proud dad of the goalie for UC Irvine, the team getting ready to face Santa Clara. She was a true freshmen and the dad was so nervous he said he wasn’t sure if he could watch. After wishing him good luck, we made our way to Maples and settled in for our first non-basketball event as Maples, women’s volleyball, also tweeting to give them exposure, too.

Both Stanford and Penn State looked good in warm ups, and both teams were nervous hitting some balls out of bounds early on in the match. Volleyball uses the rally scoring method, and we won’t tell you just how old C and R are, but when we both played high school volleyball, they used “side outs” and you could only score when your team served the ball. Nowadays, your team scores a point if the other team makes an error, regardless of who served, and games go to 25 points.

Penn State takes an early lead in the first game but Stanford battles back, mostly on the strength of hitter Rachel Williams. Stanford gets to game point but can’t put it away. Then Penn State has game point and they make an error. It’s Stanford’s serve, and they serve it into the net giving Penn State the point that wins the game. Devastating!

Stanford comes out strong the next game, and both teams trade leads and it goes down to the wire but Stanford prevails. It becomes apparent to C and R, who revert to coaching mode, and therefore critically assess the team rather than enjoying their athleticism, that Stanford has Rachel Williams to kill and Carly Wopat to block, and do not rely on much else. So if Rachel is off, the whole team is off, hence allowing Penn State to stick around.

Plus, Stanford had a hard time covering the dink! (We would drill and drill on that in high school). The dink is a soft shot hit just above the blocker’s arms and falls almost directly behind them. Usually a player is assigned to be behind then for this very reason. But Stanford did not have a dedicated player to cover this, so Penn State took advantage. In the second game, when Penn State did a dink, the space was still empty so three Stanford players would throw themselves at the floor. They either missed, or if someone got a hand on the ball, no one was on their feet to get the second hit up. Finally in the third game Carly just blocked the heck out of them and Penn State stopped dinking.

Don’t worry, Penn State was not without fault. Their Achilles Heel seemed to be net play. If the ball was close to the net, Stanford usually won that battle. And some of Penn State’s hits were into the net and the setter couldn’t adjust in time to make the play. There were a lot of points off of that for Stanford.
So with each having won one game, the match continued to the best out of five. The third game was indeed another nail-biter, with Stanford having multiple game points but not being able to close it out. Finally Stanford prevails 27-25. Now they are ahead two games to one, but it is nearly time for Stanford soccer, so we bid Volleyball and Maples ado and head back outside.

The night is still gloriously warm and when we get to the stadium and ask who won between Santa Clara and UC Irvine. We are told they are in a 1-1 tie and they are starting a ten minute overtime period. Darn, we could have stayed and watched volleyball after all! After a restroom and food break and seeing the Santa Clara – UC Irvine game was still scoreless and were starting another 10 minute overtime period, (And that poor dad of the UC Irvine goalie!) we decide to head to Maples. We see people coming out and we are told the beat Penn State in the fourth game, to win it 3-1. Yay!

So finally Stanford and Notre Dame take the field for soccer about an hour late. The stands are sold out and everyone is cheering. We are over in the new stands right above both teams that put us practically on top of the action. While at the top of the stands, we can see lightening off in the distance in the East, a rare sighting in the Bay Area. C remarks if we were back East, they would cancel the game because of said lightening. We are so close to the field that we get to hear the player’s on field chatter all night long and Stanford Coach Paul Ratcliffe yell instructions to his team. And these women are so amazing!

Each half is 45 minutes long with a running clock. In the first 10, 15 minutes, Stanford plays a ball control offense and keeps the ball on Notre Dame’s side of the field. Then around 20 minutes in, Notre Dame goes in the offensive and tests goalie Emily Oliver. About 25 or so minutes in, with the game scoreless, it starts to rain! What, rain in September in Northern California? We are under a metal awning so are safe from the drops, but most of the fans think they might melt and start moving. Then the drops get BIG and some say it is hail! The field and ball are slick, and Notre Dame gets off some good shots. Then we hear thunder, and Notre Dame is making their own thunder getting off shots, but luckily none have gone in the net. Then actually flashes of lightening and thunder. Hmm, we think, we are under a metal awning, and the stadium is surrounded by big metal light poles, this is not good. Others agree and the game is stopped with 1:07 left in the first half and we are told the game will start again in half an hour.

We retreat to R’s car and think they should just forget the one minute and 7 seconds left and call it half time and let this be the half time break. Finally, about 49 minutes later, the rain has cleared, no more lightening and the teams take the field. For the minute and 7 seconds. Then a 15-minute half time. Sigh. Most of the crowd has left.

The game resumes and in the 66th minute, Notre Dame gets a shot to the far post. Stanford goalie Emily Oliver bangs her left knee getting to the post to stop the ball but is too late. Notre Dame is on the scoreboard and she is removed from the game, carried back to the sidelines, in obvious pain. The back up goalie, Ali Gleason, does not look prepared, just has on her gray T-Shirt. Notre Dame wisely takes advantage, running after any ball she touches to try to rattle her. They also launch some hard shots, but they either go wide or she corrals.

Then in the 80th minute of a 90-minute game, Lindsey Taylor for Stanford is left alone in the box and she blasts a rocket between the goalkeeper and right goal post to tie the game. Tied 1-1 and everyone is thinking, don’t let this already late game go into overtime! Minutes later, Notre Dame makes a great shot and the back up goalie Gleason does her best Hope Solo imitation and dives left for the save. Then in the 88th minute of the 90-minute game, Lindsey Taylor launches a corner kick to the far post and Mariah Nogueria does her best Abby Wambach imitation and heads it home for the second score!

One-minute left, Stanford is trying to stall, and keep the ball away from Notre Dame and any shots on their goalie. Thirty Seconds left, Stanford clears it to the opposing goal. Ten seconds left, Stanford clears it to the sideline. Three seconds left, Stanford clears it out of bounds as the horn goes off. They beat Notre Dame 2-1, exacting revenge for the loss to them in the championship game. Not many are left to see it, but it was a wonderful game. Epic!

Wow, we are glad we were able to bear witness and now really can’t wait for the drama of women’s basketball!

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