After winning a championship with her club team when she was in the eighth grade, Stanford soccer star Christen Press had an epiphany.
“That’s when I realized I didn’t have any limits to what I can dream.”
Now the Stanford all-time leader in points and goals, Press, head coach Paul Ratcliffe says, should shoot for the stars. “There are no limits to what she can do in women’s soccer,” he says. “She’s an incredible player, and she can definitely go on to play professionally. The national team should definitely be looking at her for the future. That’s how talented I think she is.”
Press broke Sarah Rafanelli’s Stanford points record in the Cardinal’s 2-1 win against then–No. 3 Portland on Sept. 25. She then broke Rafanelli’s goals record in Stanford’s 2-1 victory against USC on Oct. 8. “It’s rare to find a player who’s so good at play-making and also has the ability to score great goals,” Ratcliffe says.
Press says that before she came to Stanford she dominated the competition individually. She says the transition to playing college soccer at Stanford helped her become the play-maker that coach Ratcliffe boasts about. “Basically every aspect of my game has improved in terms of physical strength, shooting, runs off the ball and learning to play with my teammates,” the senior forward says. “That’s a big one because I think in club I was pretty individual, and now I’m learning the importance of playing in a front line as part of a group attack.”
Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith, who recruited Press in her youth, says when the Broncos played Stanford they were forced to sit back and play a counterattack style in fear of her unusual speed. “We had to change the way we normally play for Christen, and even in doing so, she got the game-winning goal,” Smith says. “She was absolutely the difference in the game.”
After beating the Broncos 2-0 on Oct. 3, Stanford vaulted to the No. 1 ranking in the Coaches Poll and has stayed atop the poll since, but Press says the ranking means nothing to her.
“It matters who’s number one after the national championship, and in my four years that I’ve been here, at one point or another, we’ve been ranked number one and we’ve never won,” the nation’s second-leading goal scorer says.
The Cardinal, which has a 13-0-2 record this year, has lost just one game in the last two years, a 1-0 defeat to North Carolina in last year’s national championship. The loss to the Tar Heels has kept Press and Ratcliffe focused on bringing Stanford a national title.
“Our goal is to win the national championship,” says Ratcliffe, who has earned the national coach of the year award the last two seasons. “I think if we stay healthy, continue to work hard and get a little bit of luck on the way, we could definitely do it.” When asked if she believes the Cardinal will finally break through and win the national title, Press has a one-word response: “Absolutely.” It’s that confidence, which Smith says she established in her youth, that gives Press and this year’s team no limits for success.