After two straight games decided on penalties, why not just one more? This time though, it was not a foul in the box that produced the winning goal. Instead, in a thrilling match against the Florida Gators, the Stanford women’s soccer team won after penalties 2-2 (2 OT, 4-3 PKs) to become one of the four teams to advance to the NCAA College Cup.
In the final home game of the season, in front of a sold out Cagan Stadium, the Cardinal never trailed and came out firing on all cylinders. In just the fourth minute, senior forward Chioma Ubogagu – who has played fantastic soccer all year long and perhaps her best in the playoffs – again was able to beat multiple defenders down the side of the box and slide the ball across to senior forward Taylor Uhl, who hammered it home. That old adage ‘a team is most vulnerable right after they score,’ however was in full effect on Friday night as just over six minutes later, Florida equalized on a penalty on a kick taken by senior midfielder Annie Speese. Speese’s flat cross glanced off the top of a Cardinal defender’s head and into the goal. The goal was – perhaps unfairly – recorded as an own goal, as it was driven into a dangerous area with lots of traffic. Regardless, it was more the result of a very good set piece and less of a mistake of the part of Stanford.
The Cardinal would retake the lead in the second half during the 75th minute on a corner headed in by senior defender Kendall Romine, who found space in the middle to nod in the cross taken by freshman midfielder Andi Sullivan. The goal, coming after a barrage of Cardinal shots, would put Stanford up 2-1 for all of four minutes and fifteen seconds. A Florida corner came down awkwardly in the five yard box and sophomore keeper Jane Campbell was unable to get to it before it dropped down and took a small bounce off of the Gators’ senior midfielder Havana Solaun. That was enough to tie the game at two goals apiece, a score that would hold through both periods of overtime.
Uhl and the Cardinal would do their best to avoid the drama of shootouts. Uhl was agonizingly close to sending Stanford through to the next round in overtime when she latched on to a cross on the right side of the box and snapped the ball across the face of goal. Florida senior goalkeeper Taylor Burke, who finished with 8 saves and was one of the best players on the field, dove in the air to poke the ball away from the net. That would prove to be the best chance in extra time for either team, shortly afterwards Stanford prepared for their first penalty shootout of the season.
Campbell would start and end the penalty kicks. The shootout, always nerve wracking for players, was made considerably less so when Florida senior defender Annie Bobbitt thumped the first penalty of the shootout off of the right post. That first miss changed the dynamics of the shootout dramatically. Romine finished hers clinically; UF’s Speese was a bit more careful and paid the price when Campbell made an excellent save to hold the Gators scoreless after two penalties. Stanford put the Gators down 2-0 after senior midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta sent her turn at the spot flying through. The drama hardly subsided after the Gators’ rough start when goalkeeper Taylor Burke made another great save to deny Ubogagu her own chance and Florida connected on their next three opportunities. Senior midfielder Haley Rosen would convert decisively, which meant that it would be Campbell who would take the final shot of the game against her counterpart in goal. After waiting for silence, Campbell lined up and fired a ball on the ground below the dive of Burke, sending the Cardinal into the next round.
Stanford only gave up nine shots against Florida, the most they’d surrendered to any playoff opponent, and in a double-overtime game to boot. The Cardinal have outshot their opponents 97-24 during the tournament. After scoring 5 goals against UC Irvine, the Cardinal had failed to score a goal from the field in two straight games despite forcing 30 saves from opposing keepers.
Ubogagu had this to say after the game on breaking through against a very good Florida game: “It was so good to see all this…especially because of how the goals happened…its not a coincidence it just happens in big time games like this, all this work we’ve put in, [Coach Paul Ratcliffe] does a really good job of making us believe.”
“This year…we’re like ‘[let’s] make a statement’,” Campbell said. “Everyone was looking past us because of our year last year and that’s kind of a blessing in disguise for us. We set out a goal to win the Pac-12 and unfortunately UCLA happened to win that and it was well deserved by them, but once that was past us we were like ‘OK, can’t dwell on this, we’ve got another goal in mind.’ The next one is to…hopefully, 180 minutes later, have a ring.”
Head coach Paul Ratcliffe on moving on to the College Cup: “I told the team I’m really proud of them, but we’re not done, and we want to get after this week and make a big push and try to win another national championship – it will be a dream come true for all of us.”
Contact Nic Radoff at nradoff ‘at’ stanford.edu.