It will go down as one of the greatest championship games in the sport. That's of little solace to the women of Stanford right now, who saw visions of a three-peat come crashing down in the blink of an eye.
USC's Ani Espar scored in sudden death overtime to lift USC past Stanford, 10-9, Sunday in the NCAA women's water polo national championship game at Harvard.
"It was only fitting that this game played out as it did," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "It was great to be a part of an epic game like that."
Ashley Grossman tied the game for Stanford with less than 30 second left in regulation. Each team scored in the first two overtime periods.
Maggie Steffens, who scored twice, hit the back of the net to tie the game with 10 second left in the first overtime. Melissa Seidemann gave the Cardinal (29-3) a 9-8 lead in the second overtime before USC scored again.
Espar, who played on Spain's Olympic team that lost in the gold medal game to the United States, ended the longest game in NCAA tournament history with her second goal of the contest, a shot from long distance that hit the crossbar before going into the net.
"I'm really proud of the way our team kept fighting back time after time," Tanner said. "It was an impressive performance."
The game lasted 45 minutes and 47 seconds, with the first 8:46 of golden-goal extra time being scoreless.
Stanford won the opening sprint of the period, but over its two possessions of the frame had shots from Annika Dries and Seidemann saved by Trojan goalie Flora Bolonyai.
Espar had shot high on USC's first possession of the session, but on the second, with the shot clock winding down, drew a foul with 14 seconds left in the frame.
"She scored two of the most amazing goals I've ever seen in any game," Tanner said. "We got beat by a phenomenal shot."
With the space from the foul, Espar's shot found the upper corner of the cage, just past the hand of Cardinal goalie Kate Baldoni.
"Espar is amazing," Tanner said. "She and Hannah Buckling have completely transformed their team from the last couple of years. They made all the difference."
The goal ended what had been a wild back-and-forth contest. Stanford grabbed the early lead when Steffens scored 32 seconds into the game.
Five minutes later Steffens would take advantage of a quick restart following a USC foul, feeding Seidemann inside for a one-timer that doubled the Cardinal lead.
USC made a push in the fourth period, grabbing the lead for the first time. Hannah Buckling tied the game on a shot from just inside half-tank that skipped under Baldoni's arm with 1:56 to play, then Espar rattled home a shot off the post on the 6-on-5 to give the Trojans their first lead of the game at 7-6 with 45 seconds left.
Stanford would get a 6-on-5 on its final possession, with Neushul's shot being tipped out by Bolonyai. On the second chance, Ashley Grossman's shot was deflected past Bolonyai and just over the line to tie things up and send the game into overtime.
While there are several sports still competing, with the women's tennis team heading to the Round of 16 in Illinois, Stanford may likely go a school year without winning an NCAA team title for the first time since the 1976-77 school year.
USC's Bolonyai was named the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Tournament. Seidemann was named to the first team along with Steffens with Baldoni and Dries making the second team.
The Stanford women's lacrosse team's historic season came to a close Saturday afternoon as it fell to Northwestern, 15-8, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford (14-6) was unable to overcome a 7-1 scoring run and a 12-2 draw control advantage by Northwestern (18-2) in the second half.
Julia Burns led Stanford with three goals, while five Cardinal added a goal apiece. Rachel Ozer tied Burns with a team-best three points on a goal and two assists.
"I was really proud of the team's effort throughout the entire game," Stanford coach Amy Bokker said. "Northwestern is a great opponent and reigning national champions so we knew we were going to have our work cut out for us."
After a first half that saw Stanford and Northwestern trade the first six goals of the game, Northwestern took control in the second, fueled by its draw control advantage.
The Wildcats maintained a majority of the possession in the second and Stanford was forced to spread its defense to challenge for control.
The Wildcats outscored the Cardinal, 9-4, and held a 15-7 shot advantage in the second half. Northwestern finished the game with 29 shots to Stanford's 15.
Despite its time of possession being limited, Stanford continued to battle and pulled within 13-8 with 6:19 to play after Julia Burns scored her second and third goals of the game. However, Northwestern continued to control a majority of the possession and added two more goals to close the game.
Kyle Fraser opened the scoring for Stanford after Ozer caused a turnover and delivered a great feed. Ozer followed her assist with a free-position goal - her first goal at Lakeside Field in three matches this season.
Meg Lentz capped the series with her first goal on the day after a terrific spin move to get past her defender. Lucy Dikeou followed Lentz's goal 45 seconds later with one of her own to give Stanford a 4-3 lead - its first on the day.
However, Northwestern responded with a 3-0 scoring run to close out the first half. Alyssa Leonard scored twice in 53 seconds to get the Wildcats going, and Taylor Thornton scored her second on the day to give Northwestern a 6-4 lead going into halftime.
Despite the loss, Stanford's 2013 season contained a number of highlights as the team won its first NCAA Tournament game in program history and its eighth Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament championship in nine years.
The Cardinal will say goodbye to seniors Elizabeth Adam and Carolyn Bradley, but will look to utilize the experience gained by this season's 19 underclassmen and talented junior class.
Austin Wilson drove in two runs as Stanford nearly wiped away a 5-0 deficit, but the host Cardinal fell to No. 5 Oregon State, 5-4, Sunday at Sunken Diamond. Stanford out-hit the Beavers, 6-3.
No. 19 Stanford (26-20 overall, 11-13 Pac-12) surrendered five runs through five innings, with Sam Lindquist (2-2) shouldering the loss in his first career start. Lindquist was tagged for each of the five runs on two hits with four walks.
After dropping its fifth straight, the Cardinal heads into Tuesday's early week contest at home against Santa Clara having lost eight of its past 11 contests. Oregon State (41-8, 20-4) handed Stanford its first league sweep at Sunken Diamond since 2011.
Wilson poked a sixth-inning single to right, scoring Brian Ragira to cut into Oregon State's lead, 5-2.
Wilson again went opposite field to plate Stanford's next score with a double down the right-field line in the eighth. Danny Diekroeger hit into a fielder's choice which scored Ragira from third when first baseman Danny Hayes' throw pulled catcher Nate Esposito off of the plate.
Wilson represented the tying run and was thrown out at the plate on an Austin Barr fielder's choice.
Oregon State loaded the bases in the ninth and was left fruitless when the second pitch from reliever Logan James resulted in an inning-ending double play.
James teamed with Garrett Hughes and David Schmidt to hold the Beavers scoreless with one hit over the final four frames.
Stanford received an at-large bid to the 2013 NCAA Championship today. The Cardinal (37-19) will begin play on the road in the Lincoln Regional, May 17-19.
The Cardinal opens the tournament against Tulsa (42-14), while host Nebraska (40-13), the No. 14 overall seed, will square off against Northern Iowa (26-24) at Bowlin Stadium beginning Friday, May 17.
Stanford will be participating in the tournament for the 16th consecutive year, dating to 1998 when the team made its first postseason appearance in John Rittman's second year as head coach. The Cardinal has won seven regional titles, and made appearances in the Women's College World Series in 2001 and 2004.
Four teams will participate at each of the 16 regional sites in a double-elimination tournament. The regional winners will face off in the May 23-26 Super Regionals, with eight teams advancing to the 2013 WCWS at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, May 30-June 5.
Stanford wrapped up the regular season Saturday with a 37-19 overall record and a fourth-place finish in the Pac-12 with a 13-11 conference mark.
Stanford is 2-0 all-time versus Tulsa and 5-4 against Nebraska. The Cardinal and Northern Iowa would play in the first meeting between the two programs should they face off at the Regional.
Oklahoma, the 2013 Big 12 champion, was named the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament. Eight of the nine Pac-12 schools qualified for the postseason. Should Stanford advance the team would travel to the winner of the Eugene Regional in a Super Regional, which includes No. 3 overall seed Oregon, BYU, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Stanford is 10-5 at a neutral site this season and 7-8 on the road. The Cardinal is 16-14 against the 2013 tournament field.