By Jose Saldana
Stanford men’s soccer (14-3-5) advanced to its second consecutive College Cup final after defeating ninth-seeded UNC (14-3-4) in 10 rounds of penalty kicks at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night.
The Cardinal await second-seeded Wake Forest (19-3-2) in the championship match. The Demon Deacons scored a golden goal in double-overtime over Denver on Friday afternoon to secure a spot in the final.
The Stanford-UNC semifinal matchup went to penalty kicks after both teams were held scoreless in regulation and in the overtime periods. In the 10th round of penalties, sophomore midfielder Amir Bashti netted the 10th consecutive penalty for the Cardinal, which put pressure on Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia to keep UNC from losing.
Comsia failed to to convert after he skied the ball over the crossbar.
Neither team dominated the matchup. The Cardinal had a massive advantage in corner kicks 10-1, but the Tar Heels came dangerously close to putting up a few goals at the end of the game.
In the 81st minute, Tar Heel forward Alan Winn sent a blistering shot on Stanford’s goal, which deflected off junior defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce in the opposite direction of senior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein’s dive. Epstein managed to keep his right leg stretched to save the ball off his foot. The save was critical, as it kept the game scoreless in the face of more dangerous Tar Heel runs at goal.
Eight minutes later, Tar Heels defender Mauricio Pineda sent a whipping shot just over the crossbar and a diving Epstein.
In the last minute of the second overtime, Epstein again had to make a save to keep the postseason hopes alive. Epstein came off his line to smother the shot with his chest, dragging the semifinal into penalty kicks.
“I had complete faith in our guys to keep putting them away,” Epstein said. “It’s just on me to make one save, or on their guy to miss one time, and it’s ours.”
No team has scored on the Cardinal in the postseason in the last 622 minutes of play.
Three Cardinal players — a program record — were selected onto All-American teams this week. Pac-12 Defender of the Year Hilliard-Arce was named to the first team, while Epstein and Co-Pac-12 Player of the Year Foster Langsdorf made it onto the second team.
Stanford will play in the championship at 11 a.m. on Sunday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.