Palo Alto residents can breathe a sigh of relief as the Women’s DI College Championship host will play at home in three weeks time. Stanford defeated Pacific Mountain Conference mate California 41-22 today during today’s quarterfinal.
The Cardinal came out of the gates firing and played a high tempo game that Cal couldn’t contain. Stanford sent Jamaica Osorio, Caitlin Breen, Olabisi Ibhahim, Amelia Villines and Smriti Sridhar over the tryline during the first 40 minutes, and Alyson Gleason slotted three conversions. Cal flyhalf Maricel Quirindongo-Crespo ran in an intercept try to prevent the first-half shutout.
“The first half was one of our better halves of rugby this season,” Stanford coach Matt Sherman said. “Overall, we played a better game than we have all season and it’s nice to see continual improvement. That said, we still have another year’s worth of improvement in us. We’re still struggling to complete 80 minutes of rugby.”
The second half was more even and Cal outscored Stanford three tries to two, with Mariah Castro, Jennifer Costley and Jenn Sever accounting for the Golden Bears’ five-pointers and Villines and Katherine Lampert dotted down for the Cardinal.
“We played outstanding defense in the first half, but we pulled off the gas in the second half,” Sherman said. “We let in tries but that’s also a credit to Cal for continuing to play hard.”
Stanford wasn’t really challenged during league play and traveled to Canada over spring break in order to challenge themselves. The team lost to Velox (45-7) and UBC (47-10).
“At this point, improvements will come in terms of decision-making, detail in everything we do, execution and the knowledge of roles,” Sherman said. “We can still play with more velocity and at a higher tempo. Those two things combined, and we can find another gear as a team.
“When we got our butts kicked in Canada, we found a new pace we didn’t know we could play,” Sherman added. “We got pushed, rose to challenge and now we’re more comfortable with being uncomfortable. We can fix problems and improve during the game. That new level of competition made us confident that we can step up.”
Villines is one of those players who can help drive that higher level of play. The former center has been playing No. 8 all season and has really flourished in the breakaway position. The ball makes it into the dangerous attacker’s hand more often, and that uptick in carries has helped the offense greatly.
Lampert also stepped up this weekend and solidified a lineout that was struggling for consistency. Her role in the set piece allowed the team to make a collective step forward this weekend. Outside center Ibrahim as well was particularly electric with ball in hand.
Stanford will play Brown in the semifinals, and although it’s Sherman’s first year with the Cardinal since Jonathan Griffin left, he was on hand for last year’s tournament, as announcer.
“Brown had a good weekend and they’re more than capable,” Sherman said. “Our number one focus is being best team we can, and if we do that, we have a good chance of being competitive.”