In his final game at Cagan Stadium, Derek Waldeck came up clutch, twice. The senior midfielder had a beautiful left-footed finish to open the scoring and delivered the corner kick that led to the game-winning goal.
“Coming into the game I was reminding myself this could be the last one on Cagan for me,” Waldeck said. “I knew I just wanted to find a way to impact the game somehow, whether that was getting on the scoresheet or setting someone up.”
No. 7 Stanford (14-2-4, 6-2-2 Pac-12) sent 10th-seeded Virginia Tech (10-6-3, 2-4-2 ACC) home with a 2-1 victory in the third round of NCAA tournament action. The win sets up a date with Clemson for a rematch of the 2015 national title game.
With Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn settling the team into a 4-4-2 formation, Waldeck has been forced to the left wing from central midfield. His keen left foot and ability to deliver crosses make him an ideal candidate for the position.
“Derek has been amazing this year,” Gunn said. “He is so selfless and will do anything for the team. We play him out of position because that’s what the team needs and he nods his head and does it. What a beautiful goal. The passing and the movement were just sublime.”
That left foot was responsible for both goals. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Ousseni Bouda touched the ball behind his back to fellow forward redshirt sophomore Zach Ryan. From there, Waldeck, who had instigated the attack on a give-and-go with senior Jared Gilbey four passes prior, completed his run into the box, controlled with a couple of touches, then buried the shot in the back of the net.
The goal came after a run of dominant play from the Cardinal in which the team started the second half with determination. Last round, Stanford also came out of intermission and found a goal.
“We came out amazingly well those first 10 minutes of the second half and I think we were deserving of the goal,” Waldeck said.
In the previous game, Stanford then conceded the equalizer soon thereafter, and the same occurred on Sunday.
“We scored the first goal after a really good spell where we were on top and then they scored their goal after a good spell,” Gunn said.
After a brief post-goal surge from the Cardinal, capped by a shot on goal from Bouda, the Hokies took control of the game. Virginia Tech launched the next four shots on goal, including an incredible effort by Camron Lennon off of the bench to tie the game. Daniel Pereira, who provided a scare for the Cardinal with a first half rocket off the crossbar, was credited for the assist.
Unlike the Seattle game, when the team took its foot off the gas after the equalizer and forced redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas to come up with an incredible four penalty kick saves in a shootout, Stanford found the resolve for a game winner.
“To come back and get back on the front foot and put away the winner in the final ten minutes was huge for us,” Waldeck said. “It speaks a lot about the character of the team and our willingness to keep going.”
Waldeck’s left-footed in-swinging corner kick went over the top of the defense to find freshman center back Keegan Hughes at the back post. The goal was the third of the year for the freshman and the seventh assist for the senior.
“When I’m hitting corners my plan is just to put it in good spots for guys to go and head it. I tell myself if I put it in a good spot they can do the rest and go attack it. That’s what I tried to do I think I put it in a decent spot and it bounced around once or twice and then Keegan was in a great spot to slam it home.”
“What a fantastic game of soccer,” Gunn said. “It was two tremendous teams with everything on the line. They had chances, we had chances and in the end we were just strong enough to score the decisive goal and see it out.”
The 2015 national championship finished with Stanford celebrating a 4-0 victory in Kansas City. The Cardinal won the next two national championships, before watching its season end at home in the quarterfinal round last season. Redshirt senior center back Tanner Beason is the only player still on the roster from all three titles.
For the fifth straight season, Stanford is among the nation’s final eight teams. The seventh-seeded Cardinal will travel to second-seeded Clemson on Friday at 3 p.m. PST.
“We’re just gonna worry about ourselves,” Waldeck said. “I think we know we can give ourselves a great chance in any game as long as we’re willing to work hard and make life difficult for other teams.”
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.