For 10 minutes, the rivals from across the Bay controlled the run of play and were gifted one moment to define the game. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas was whistled for a foul during a one-on-one challenge, and Cal’s Thomas Williamson finished the ensuing penalty kick.
The 56th-minute goal was the difference-maker as the Cardinal were shutout 1-0 at home on Thursday night. Williamson and the Bears celebrated the goal in front of Stanford’s student section.
For the second-straight year, this time with the Pac-12 title on the line, No. 4 Stanford (14-4, 7-3) lost its final regular-season match at home to Cal (7-6-3, 3-4-2 Pac-12). And for the first time in six seasons, the conference has a new champion: Washington.
“Cal had a good 10 minutes at the beginning of the half, and they got the chance in that time period and the penalty that decided it,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. “After that, we got back on top and we were pushing but just didn’t quite create enough chances.”
Two minutes later, Cal almost doubled its advantage, but Christian Gomez’s volley cracked off the crossbar. From then on, Stanford took seven shots to Berkeley’s three, but could not regain the momentum it came into the game with following a 1-0 upset of No. 1 Washington on the road on Sunday to prolong the Pac-12 title race.
“We congratulate UW because that’s the conference won for them,” Gunn said. “We made them sweat, we made them work, but we wanted to take it one more day and give ourselves hope.”
“We played well in the first half,” Gunn added. “We were in a good position; we just needed to capitalize a little bit with our good possession.”
Including the foul that allowed Cal to score from the penalty spot, Stanford was called for 20 on the night. Referee Luis Guardia whistled Cal just 11 times.
“We were a bit leggy tonight, and as a result, our timing of tackles wasn’t as good as it normally was,” Gunn said. “We both went on the same road trips for the past four games, but we’ve been in games that have mattered. We’ve had the emotional energy, the physical energy of games that really count.”
Redshirt senior center back Tanner Beason returned to the pitch for the first time since Oct. 3, when Stanford fell at home to the Huskies. Beason, Stanford’s captain, was one of three Cardinal to wear the armband, alongside junior right back Logan Panchot and senior midfielder Derek Waldeck.
With Beason at center back, Gunn stuck with sophomore Ryan Ludwick over freshman Keegan Hughes, who had been the starter next to Beason at the beginning of the season.
Stanford played much of the game in a 4-4-2, starting with redshirt sophomore Zach Ryan and junior Arda Bulut at forward, but with freshmen Ousseni Bouda and Gabe Segal rotating on the front line.
In the 82nd minute, Ryan took one last look at goal, but Cal keeper Drake Callender reacted despite limited visibility for his third and final save of the game.
With one final gasp and five seconds remaining on the clock, Stanford was awarded a free-kick. Panchot heaved a ball from midfield into the box, but the ball missed everyone and Cal celebrated its upset victory, just its second over Stanford in Cagan Stadium since 2010.
“We regroup, and we’re excited to find out who we’re playing in the NCAA tournament,” Gunn said. “If you take each program’s position, I’d still rather take ours.”
Stanford will learn its tournament seeding and opponent during the selection show on Monday.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.