2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 14 Stanford (Women)

PHOTO COURTESY OF STANFORD ATHLETICS

Ali Baiocco was second in the nation with 6.25 points per game.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 14 STANFORD

2021 Record: 11-1 (7-0 Pac-12)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 14
Coach: Danielle Spencer (3rd season)

After the 2020 season, Stanford women’s lacrosse head coach Danielle Spencer talked to star attacker Ali Baiocco about her shooting percentage.

Baiocco’s 17 goals in the pandemic-shortened season ranked seventh in the Pac-12. But her 35.4 percent shooting percentage was a career low.

As soon as Stanford began practicing in February, Baiocco showed up to the field 30 minutes early every day, working on her shot and inspiring her teammates to join her.

“That was a point for me that I could really push her as a coach,” Spencer said.

Baiocco’s extra work paid off. Stanford ran the table before falling to Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and Baiocco — who returns for a fifth and final season in 2022 — had a breakout senior year.

Baiocco was second in the nation with 6.25 points per game and earned second-team All-American honors. Her shooting percentage went up to 61 percent, the highest among Pac-12 players who attempted more than 20 shots.

“It was one of my better seasons,” Baiocco said before adding she didn’t “really know what to owe it to.”

Baiocco said Spencer’s new offense installed last year involved a lot of two-man, meshing with her all-around ability to feed, cut and dodge. Spencer encouraged her to excel in all three skills.

“I think it’s helpful to be able to do all three,” Baiocco said. “If you can only do one thing, you become way too [easy to scout]. If a team tries to shut me down with dodging, then great, I can go cut.”

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

Baiocco also delivered in the big moments, depositing four game-winning goals in 2021, including a goal against USC in April with 16 seconds left to clinch Stanford’s first regular season Pac-12 title.

“She’s freaky calm,” Spencer said, describing Baiocco as “level-headed, steady and poised.”

In the huddle during close games last season, Spencer said her players were always calm because of Baiocco’s energy.

“She doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low,” Spencer said. “I would imagine that it would be really nice to play with that type of personality, if I was her teammate. Knowing she is going to be a rock on the field, not just statistically but emotionally.”

Aside from Baiocco, Stanford returns three other fifth-year seniors and brings in a talented freshman class.

Spencer hopes 2022 is the year that the stars finally align. She was hired in 2019 but missed summer recruiting, and her first season was shortened by the pandemic. In 2021, local public health mandates kept Stanford from practicing until February — much later than other programs.

And a university rule prohibited travel of more than 400 miles for non-conference games, so the Cardinal couldn’t venture far until the NCAA tournament — where they lost 15-13 to Denver in Evanston, Illinois.

The 2022 schedule projects a return to normalcy. Stanford will travel to the East Coast to play Syracuse and Virginia, and it has a home rematch with Denver.

“Our strength of schedule is definitely going to be amazing,” Baiocco said. “Just being able to play these teams in the regular season will help us further along the line when we hit the playoffs. We’re not seeing these teams for the first time in the NCAA tournament.”

Spencer has been reflecting on what it will take to “win either that first-round game or get that win over Denver.” In 2019, Stanford lost in the first round of the tournament to Notre Dame.

“I honestly feel like I'm just beginning now,” Spencer said. “This year feels somewhat like year one, even though on paper, it’s year three.”






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TOP RETURNERS

Ali Baiocco, A, Fifth Year

Baiocco will be expected to build upon her breakout 2021 season with the hopes of ending her Stanford career strong.

Galen Lew, A, Fifth Year

Lew — who has played with Baiocco since they were at the club ball level — was overshadowed last year because of Baiocco’s breakout season, according to Spencer. She was third on the team with 27 goals and is again expected to supplement Baiocco on the attack.

Trudie Grattan, G, Fifth Year

Grattan’s 2021 season was cut short by an injury, but she is expected to be at full strength this season. She had a .514 save percentage and allowed 9.37 goals a game in seven games.

KEY ADDITION

Annabel Frist, M, Fr.

Frist, an Under Armour All-American, has quickly impressed Spencer in fitting into the style of play and picking up concepts all over the field. She is expected to contribute regularly as a freshman.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Maggie Bellaschi, D, Sr.

Bellaschi, a four-year starter, has flown under the radar because her value as a defender stretches beyond the stat sheet, according to Spencer. But she is “an absolute pitbull” and could pop up more on paper in 2022, Spencer said.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Cardinal:

“They have everybody back and then some. They have a great freshman class. Stanford was a terrific team last year and should really be in contention this year.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

2026

Last year was a high-watermark for the Cardinal. Their end-of-season LaxElo rating of 2026 (No. 12 nationally) was the highest the program has registered. Ali Baiocco and company will get an early chance to show whether they are for real with a game against Syracuse on February 11. — Zack Capozzi

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