Women’s soccer co-captains score for change

Playing in white and pink, No. 5 women’s soccer (13-0-2, 6-0-1, Pac-12) defeated the Oregon Ducks (0-13-2, 0-7, Pac-12) 2-0 Sunday, in their annual Breast Cancer Awareness game.

The Cardinal dominated with 27 shots on goal and 17 corner kicks, but their victory was not the only notable part of yesterday’s game. As they do in every game, the Cardinal played for a broader purpose. This game focused on raising awareness for breast cancer, as part of their effort to use their platform to ignite positive social change.

Stanford’s first goal in yesterday’s game came early. In the ninth minute, sophomore midfielder Jasmine Aikey intercepted an errant pass from an Oregon defender intended for her goalie and easily placed the ball into the lower right corner of the net. 

“I was kind of pressing and delaying. Then I saw someone made a bad pass and I just pounced on it. I saw the keeper and I saw the bottom corner open,” Aikey said. 

Building off this momentum, the team proceeded to dominate, hammering shots from all over the attacking third. Head coach Paul Ratcliffe acknowledged Oregon goalkeeper Leah Freeman, the 2022 Pac-12 keeper of the year, who kept the game competitive. Keeping the Ducks’ heads above water, Freeman made 15 saves, causing collective frustration for the Cardinal.

“I think the team was a little frustrated. We created a lot of chances, which is amazing. But we do need to capitalize on [them] more. We need to be more clinical in the final third [of the field],” Ratcliffe said. “But full credit to [Oregon’s] goalkeeper. I thought she made some tremendous saves because we did have some good connections that just didn’t go in because of her.”

In the game, the leadership of co-captains Maya Doms (midfielder) and Kennedy Wesley (center back) was paramount to Stanford’s success. The two players’ tenacity contributed to both offensive and defensive success through Doms’s creative distribution in the midfield and Wesley’s fierce defensive battling against an aggressive striker.

Rolling into the second half, the game was still 1- 0, in large part due to Freeman’s goalkeeping. However, in the 76th minute, Wesley scored the Cardinal’s second goal off Aikey’s 15th corner of the day, cementing Stanford’s lead. 

“Jasmine set me up perfectly with a good ball, and I just was at the right place at the right time. I did what I always do, and it happened to work out,” Wesley said. “But I’ll give credit to Jazz ’cause that was a great ball.”

Both Wesley and Doms said that, as captains, they prioritize smart leadership tactics over domineering and intimidating strategies in order to support the team’s success on the field. As a result, other players naturally fall into their own positions of leadership, building the team’s chemistry. 

“I feel like we’re more of a lead-by-example type of duo. Ken obviously has to be a little more vocal in the back line, but I think we’re captains that don’t really care about having that much authority or power,” Doms said. “We just want to make sure that everyone feels welcome and we want other people to step up as well. We want to give other people the opportunity to grow into leadership roles, especially with us two on the way out.” 

Beyond their success on the field today, both captains recognize the importance of utilizing their platforms to generate meaningful impact within the athletic community and beyond. With the Cardinal currently ranked number five in the nation, the captains have transformed the national attention into a platform to promote important causes. 

“One of the things that we’ve been focusing on, especially of late, is to play for something bigger than ourselves,” Wesley said, pointing to the mental health and breast cancer awareness games. “We’re in a good spot and do have that platform and ultimately want to use it not for ourselves, but for other things as much as we can.”

Ratcliffe also appreciated the drive of his players to make a difference. “I think if you speak to our players, it’s really important to them that they want to use this platform … to help be role models for young people,” he said. “I think it’s really important that we send that message to everybody, that we’re not just soccer players, but we care about others.”

To witness the inspirational play and big-picture spirit of the Cardinal women’s soccer program, tune into their next Pac-12 game at 2:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, at the University of Southern California against the Trojans (9-3-1, 5-1-1, Pac-12). 

Originally posted 2023-10-24 05:31:18.