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Motivated Stanford women’s soccer team kicks off 2016-17 season

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STANFORD, Calif. (Via Stanford University) – For months, Stanford women’s soccer returners have simmered with the painful memory of a penalty-kick loss in the NCAA quarterfinals.

As the team gathered Wednesday morning for the first training session of the new season, it was evident that the Cardinal had no intention of putting it out of its mind — a 3-2 PK loss after 1-1 draw to Duke. Stanford outshot the Blue Devils, 22-8, and had an 11-2 corner-kick advantage. Those are figures that normally would be an indication of a domination, not a loss.

Should the team hold on to the memory of that match, and the frustration of missing the College Cup for only the second time in eight years?

“I hope so,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “It motivates me.”

Maddie Bauer, a senior captain, said she hasn’t forgotten.

“Losing on home PK’s … it really doesn’t get much worse than that,” she said. “It’s been fuel since the day after that game. We understand that happened, but we understand we’re that much better this year and to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

+Read: NSCAA releases preseason NCAA Women’s Soccer Top 25 Rankings

Stanford, despite a lukewarm No. 5 preseason NSCAA ranking, will certainly be good. The Cardinal won the 2015 Pac-12 championship and went 19-2-2 with a thin roster and without great firepower. But it did have a great defense, and this year’s team features All-America holding midfielder Andi Sullivan, four-year goalkeeper starter Jane Campbell, and sophomore rising star Alana Cook alongside Bauer in central defense.

“We all have one goal, the national championship,” Bauer said. “We have so much experience, so much drive and motivation. This year, we really feel like we’re going for it.”

Stanford allowed only 0.55 goals per match last year and outscored opponents, 42-13, but Ratcliffe expects much more from his offense. No player scored more than five goals. That’s a big part of what he hopes to see during training camp and beyond.

+Read: NCAA Women’s Soccer Commitment Announcements: July 2016

“We have some young players who hopefully can help us,” Ratcliffe said. “But we need to get the midfielders more involved in the scoring and the forwards to play at a higher level than last year. We want to have a couple of players that are big-time goalscorers, getting 10 or more goals during the season.”

For a short time, all that was put aside. The women’s soccer team was the first of Stanford’s 36 sports to report and begin training during the 2016-17 academic year. The players were excited and anxious.

“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Bauer said. “It’s finally here. It’s such a great feeling.”

Stanford is an elite program, with a tradition of talent and annual high expectations. But until he sees the players are on the field together, and the work habits of the freshmen, Ratcliffe said you can never be sure.

“Every year, I come in optimistic,” he said. “But it comes down to the level of motivation the team has, and the amount of grit they have. Hopefully, this team is motivated and wants to prove something.”

That doesn’t seem to be a problem.

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