Ninth-seeded Stanford men’s soccer (17-2-2) didn’t wait for penalties to decide the game this time around against first-seeded Wake Forest (19-2-2) but instead goals by seniors defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce and midfielder Sam Werner propelled the Cardinal to 2-0 victory in Winston-Salem on Saturday afternoon.
The win sends Stanford to its third consecutive College Cup and the sixth one in the program’s history. The Cardinal will play fourth-seeded Akron in Philadelphia, which is a rematch of the 2015 semifinal.
The Cardinal have played Wake Forest in three consecutive postseason appearances (including this year) and the Deacons have been eliminated by Stanford each time.
In the 2015 quarterfinal, then-sophomore forward Foster Langsdorf headed home a goal in overtime to down Wake Forest.
Last season, the two teams clashed in the NCAA title game. After 110 minutes of physical and scoreless play, the game was decided on penalties where the Cardinal prevailed 5-4.
This game wasn’t as tight as the previous two games as Stanford threatened to score early and often, especially off set pieces.
“It boiled down to the fact that we created so many good chances and had a complete game,” Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “Our team was fantastic. Wake [Forest] did carve out some opportunities, but on the night we had more chances, better chances and we executed on those chances. Defensively we were rock solid at the back, kept the ball different spells and defended well when they had good possession.”
The first 30 minutes featured three shots-on-goal by Langsdorf and a shot by senior midfielder Corey Baird thaht was deflected off the crossbar.
The onslaught of shots from the Cardinal finally bore fruit in the 37th when sophomore midfielder Jared Gilbey’s corner kick sliced through the air and connected with Hilliard-Arce near the middle of the box. Hilliard-Arce flicked the ball with his head into the right part of the net and just past the outstretched arms of the Wake Forest goalkeeper.
“Before the game we talked about maybe being able to exploit them a little bit on set pieces knowing they weren’t as big or tall as the [Coastal Carolina] team we played last week,” Hilliard-Arce said. “Our game plan was to put it in the box and following the flight of the ball I was able to get on the end of it.”
The score broke the stalemate, and it marked Hilliard-Arce’s fourth goal of the season, which ties his career high in a season. He had four in the 2016 season.
The rest of the half went without much more offensive fanfare but the Cardinal were ready to increase their lead after the halftime break.
In the span of five minutes, the Cardinal took four shots with three coming from Werner.
Werner in the 53rd received a pass from Langsdorf to the left side of the box. He delivered a bullet but was saved by the Deacons keeper. The ball ricocheted back to Werner’s side but the ball could not be cleared by the Wake Forest defenders. Werner took control of the ball and sent another shot but this time past the goalkeeper to double Stanford’s lead to 2-0.
The goal gave Werner three on the season, which is a career high.
The Cardinal remained aggressive with Baird and Langsdorf pushing the ball up the field till the final whistle sounded.
Stanford extends its postseason shutout streak to 10 games that spans three seasons to the first championship run. Fifth-year keeper Nico Corti recorded his 12th clean sheet of the year and three have come in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinal will have a chance to advance to its third consecutive College Cup final when they play Akron on Dec. 8 in Philadelphia. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.