Andrew Thomas held up four fingers at the end of Sunday’s game to indicate a fourth penalty kick save. Seconds earlier, the redshirt sophomore goalkeeper dove to his right to waylay the final effort of the Redhawks. Seconds later, he would be mobbed by his teammates after securing the Cardinal a spot in the Sweet 16.
Before each penalty kick, Thomas fixed his socks directly in front of the penalty kick taker as each opponent placed the ball on the spot. After four of the ensuing five penalty kicks, Thomas proudly held up a number to indicate his tally.
“I just wanted to remind the opposition as well, that it was my box and I was going to be saving a few more,” Thomas said.
It took 110 minutes and nine penalty kicks, but Stanford (13-2-4, 6-3-2 Pac-12) advanced past Seattle (15-3-5, 10-0-1) 2-1 in a penalty kick shootout to secure a spot in the third round of the NCAA tournament. At the end of regulation, the two sides were drawn level at 1-1, and neither team could finish a golden goal in overtime at Cagan Stadium.
With this victory, the Cardinal have now advanced in eight consecutive postseason shootouts dating back to 2002. Thomas was also in goal for the most recent shootout, won by Stanford 4-2 over Saint Mary’s.
“That was my first experience of a penalty shootout with Sanford and it was a high pressure environment and that was 3,000 opposing fans,” Thomas said. “It’s nice to have a home crowd this time making some noise for us and every save and every goal that we scored it was fantastic hearing the noise.”
Midfielder Hal Uderitz was the sole Redhawks player to beat Thomas at the goal. The other four Seattle players — forwards James Morris and Noe Meza and midfielders Jesse Ortiz and Hamish Ritchie — were all denied by Thomas.
“I trusted my ability to save a couple penalties, and I trusted the boys to score a couple,” Thomas said.
In regulation, Meza scored the equalizing goal for Seattle at the 75th minute on a free kick lofted in by Ritchie and flicked on by Uderitz.
Seattle keeper Akili Kasim, who has played every minute of the season in goal for his side, saved two of Stanford’s four efforts. Stanford’s goalkeeper, however, came up even more clutch to save the night for the Cardinal.
“You’ve prepared for every eventuality,” said head coach Jeremy Gunn. “We wanted to win in regulation, and we couldn’t find a way to do that against a very, very good team in Seattle.”
“It still takes good courage from each player to step up and do that,” Gunn added. “And then it takes some some great abilities from the goalkeeper to make saves like that.”
The two penalty kicks converted by Stanford were delivered by the captains. Junior outside back Logan Panchot connected on the first and redshirt senior Tanner Beason finished the third penalty kick. Beason was injured for the majority of the season and made his return in the season finale against Cal.
“[Beason has] been such a cornerstone of the program,” Gunn said. “Tanner is such a special individual, such a special player, that it’s great for us to have him back in the team.”
Beason watched from the sidelines as Stanford won the 2015 national championship in his redshirt year. During that time, Beason practiced his penalty kicks, setting himself up to become Gunn’s primary penalty kick taker. Three of Beason’s four goals this season have come from the spot.
“He can take all different types of penalties,” Gunn said. “Even though he’s taken a lot of them, keeper really doesn’t know what he’s going to do with it.”
The fourth Beason goal of the season came Sunday on a ball sent in by Panchot off a free kick. The Redhawks failed to clear their lines, and Beason tapped in the potential go-ahead goal in the 61st minute. Nevertheless, Stanford conceded less than fifteen minutes later.
“We didn’t play our best soccer today,” Gunn said. “We had too many unforced errors, too many mistakes.”
“It can click and it has clicked through out the season,” Gunn added. “We just have to keep the belief and keep working at it so that we can get ourselves over the top in those moments.”
“We’ve got another week of soccer, so let’s make the most of it,” Thomas said.
Stanford will host tenth-seeded Virginia Tech (10-5-3, 2-4-2 ACC) on Sunday in the Sweet 16.
“We’re still playing soccer,” Gunn said. “That’s what we want.”