Top-ranked Stanford advanced to the NCAA women's soccer quarterfinals with a convincing 3-0 victory over Denver in a Sweet 16 match Sunday at Cagan Stadium.
The Cardinal (20-1-1) will play host to Pac-12 rival UCLA on Friday night for a chance to reach its fifth straight College Cup, soccer's version of the Final Four. Stanford beat the Bruins 2-1 last month in Westwood. UCLA (18-2-2) advanced Sunday with a 3-0 win at San Diego State.
"It will be a great game," said senior midfielder Nina Watkins, who scored her third goal of the season Sunday. "They've grown so much, and we've grown so much."
Coach Paul Ratcliffe's teams coalesce in the postseason. The current group has done it again through three NCAA games this year.
"People said we couldn't do what we do this year," Ratcliffe said.
But the Cardinal has 10 seniors who are 93-3-4 during their careers. The Stanford seniors also are 51-0-1 at home in the past four years.
The team handled unranked Denver (17-3-4) with an aggressive defense and steady attack. The Cardinal took the lead in the ninth minute on Alex Doll's goal off a strong buildup by Courtney Verloo and Chioma Ubogagu on the left. Verloo found Doll alone in the
Stanford doubled the lead in the 57th minute when Watkins fired a 25-yard laser into the upper right corner out of the reach of Pioneers goalkeeper Lara Campbell. Lo'eau LaBonta held possession underneath the defense and passed back to an open Watkins.
Ubogagu got the final goal in the 78th minute when Sydney Payne delivered a great through ball on the left. Ubogagu collected the ball from 12 yards out and slammed it past Campbell inside the near post.
"We were very disciplined," senior fullback Rachel Quon said. "From the beginning we wanted to play our soccer. Once we scored one goal we couldn't just let up."
The reigning national champion Cardinal extended its home unbeaten streak to 66 games.
Denver struggled to mount an attack after Kaitlin Bast went out in the 33rd minute. She collided with Stanford defender Laura Liedle and didn't return as a precautionary measure. Coach Jeff Hooker said his forward is OK.
Justin Bowers scored with no time on the clock, and Dean Ouellet converted in the sixth round of the shootout in the San Francisco Bulls' 4-3 win over the Utah Grizzlies at the Cow Palace. Thomas Heemskerk stopped 29 shots in the win.
Gig Harbor went wire-to-wire in the $37,940 feature at Golden Gate Fields. Ridden by Frank Alvarado and trained by Steve Specht, Gig Harbor ran six furlongs in 1:09.26 and beat 4-5 favorite Shudacudawudya by 31/2 lengths.
Wire services contributed to this report.