It's No. 1 vs. No. 3 when UCLA visits Stanford on Sunday, always the premier showdown in what's now the Pacific 12 Conference -- and this year the biggest in the country.
The top-ranked Cardinal (11-0-1), national runners-up the last two seasons, has won the last four meetings with the Bruins (10-0-1), including a round-of-16 clash in last year's NCAA tournament. They're unbeaten in their last 57 regular-season games, since falling to UCLA on Oct. 31, 2008.
UCLA, which is No. 1 in the RPI and No. 2 in Soccer America's rankings, has used dominant defensive displays while winning its last seven games, five of them by 1-0 scorelines, but its depth in the nets will be tested after senior goalkeeper Chante' Sandiford tore her left Achilles' tendon during training last week. She was the Bruins' starter the past two seasons, but freshman Katelyn Rowland has been in the nets most of this fall.
The Bruins on Friday face California (8-3-1), with Stanford starting the weekend against struggling USC (3-9-0). Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe, who played on UCLA's 1990 NCAA men's title-winners, will claim his 200th career victory with his next win.
Ratcliffe, who is from Calabasas, guided St. Mary's for five seasons before taking charge at Stanford in 2003. His teams are 81-4-4 in the past three-plus seasons.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Connor Brandt (Temecula/Great Oak HS) turned a 20th-minute takeaway into a goal to lift Cal State Dominguez Hills to a 1-0 victory Friday at San Francisco State. He went one better two days later, with a steal and a chip in overtime to carry the Toros past Cal Poly Pomona, 2-1.
Local conference Players of the Week:
Big West Conference (NCAA Division I)
Men: Offensive -- Cal State Northridge's Carlos Benavides (Woodland Hills/El Camino Real HS); Defensive -- Cal Poly's Chase Houser (Chino Hills/Damien HS)
Women: Defensive -- Cal State Northridge's Cynthia Jacobo (Granada Hills/Granada Hills HS)
California Collegiate Athletic Assoiation (NCAA Division II)
Men: Cal State Dominguez Hills' Connor Brandt (Temecula/Great Oak HS)
Golden State Athletic Conference (NAIA)
Men: Offensive -- Vanguard's Kevin Cornwall; Defensive -- Vanguard's Cody Adams (Rancho Santa Margarita/Trabuco Hills HS)
Women: Offensive -- Point Loma Nazarene's Krista Gregory (Lake Forest/El Toro HS)
ETC.: Redlands, under the guidance of former Galaxy and U.S. Soccer staff coach Ralph Perez (who serves as the Galaxy's radio analyst), is streaking toward the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs, who shared the regular-season title with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps but lost in the tournament final and missed the NCAA Division III playoffs, are 7-0-0 in SCIAC play, 10-3-0 overall, and have five players with at least four goals (Cody Carlson, with six, leads the team), three with at least four assists (Gabe Ramirez leads with six), and a defense that has conceded just nine goals and 50 shots on goal in 13 games. They play Saturday morning at second-place Pomona-Pitzer (6-4-0), which is 5-1-0 in SCIAC action.
RANKINGS: Long Beach State, with Nadia Link putting up All-America numbers, has won five in a row. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America has noticed, and the 49ers (9-3-1) entered the top 25 this week, at No. 23. Gone from the list: Their Big West rival UC Irvine, following a 0-1-1 start to its conference schedule.
Here's a list of local teams in the NSCAA rankings:
7. UC Irvine
19. UC Santa Barbara
Receiving votes: Cal State Fullerton
Nos. 1-3: Connecticut, Maryland and Akron
23. Long Beach State
Receiving votes: UC Irvine
Nos. 1-2: Stanford and Oklahoma State
24. Cal State Dominguez Hills
Receiving votes: Cal State L.A.
Nos. 1-3: Fort Lewis (Colo.), Franklin Pierce (N.H.) and Simon Fraser (B.C.)
24. Cal State L.A.
Nos. 1-3: Bridgeport (Conn.), UC San Diego and California (Pa.)
Nos. 1-3: St. Lawrence (N.Y.), Messiah (Pa.) and Christopher Newport (Va.)
17. Cal Lutheran
Nos. 1-3: Messiah (Pa.), William Smith (N.Y.) and Wheaton (Ill.)
5. Azusa Pacific
24. The Master's
Receiving votes: Biola
Nos. 1-3: Hastings (Neb.), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and Rio Grande (Ohio)
3. Azusa Pacific
14. The Master's
Receiving votes: Vanguard
Nos. 1-2: Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and Lee (Tenn.)