Nine returning starters from its two-time defending national championship men's soccer team gives Stanford an air of invincibility. The Cardinal practices like the ninth seed of an eight-team tournament.
There are no shortcuts, something that drove last year's team, which went to overtime in 11 of its 23 matches, and needed penalty kicks to win both its semifinal game and championship match.
"The margins are so fine," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. "You can have a good season and still not win. Going into last season, we lost firepower and there was a little uncertainty. This year we only replace two starters and brought ion some excellent freshmen, putting us in good position."
What made last year work so well was the emergence of Foster Langsdorf as an offensive weapon. He scored a career-best 15 goals and recorded 32 points, earning him second team All-American recognition.
"Foster is truly unique. We absolutely love him," Gunn said. He's probably the hardest working person I ever met. When you give him a day off, he sneaks off and does extra training. He creates so much energy and instills so much honesty."
Langsdorf took a quantum leap because of his attention to detail. He worked to become a better finisher.
Senior Tomas Hillard-Arce is to the defense what Langsdord is to the offense. A first tea All-American, Hillard-Arce was named last year's Defensive Player of the Year.
"He makes a big connection in our great defensive work," Gunn said. "He's a true competitor and a true winner. To be a good defender you have to have that. Soccer truly works relies on synergy."
Top-ranked Stanford (1-0) hosts No. 23 Creighton (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday as part of a doubleheader with the fifth-ranked women's team, which opens the evening at 4 p.m. against No. 10 Georgetown. It's the home opener for both.
As part of the celebration, the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a T-shirt celebrating the men's back-to-back national championship.
The Stanford coaching staff designed the T-shirts and wanted them to look like jerseys.
"We had fun with it," Gunn said. "The marketing staff does an excellent job. The most important thing is what happens on the pitch. Getting great fan support is such an emotional lift. We want to share it."
In addition to Langsdorf and Hillard-Arce, other returning starters include Tanner Beason and Adam Mosharrafa, two of the top returning defenders.
Bryce Marion, Sam Werner, Drew Skundrich, Derek Waldeck and Jared Gilbey return en masse to solidify the midfield.
Forward Corey Baird returns following a season in which he led the Cardinal with six assists, adding three goals.
Midfielder Amir Bashti started three games and appeared in all of them. He's joined by Colin Hyatt, who made three starts last year, and Collin Liberty, both of whom played significantly last year.
The Stanford women's team began the season with a three-game road trip, which included wins against Marquette and Wisconsin followed by a narrow loss at No. 8 Florida last week.
Friday's match against Georgetown will broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks, and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a pair of thundersticks.
Freshman Catarina Macario scored three goals on opening weekend against Marquette and Wisconsin, adding a fourth goal against Florida last week. She also scored in Stanford's 2-1 exhibition win at UC Davis on Aug. 10.
Stanford is undefeated in its last 10 home openers, dating to 2007.