Less than a minute from suffering its first loss in the Bay Area in six years, Stanford pulled out an improbable double-overtime women's soccer victory over its biggest rival, Santa Clara, on Sunday night.
Fifth-year senior forward Courtney Verloo completed her first collegiate hat trick by converting a free kick in the 108th minute to give No. 2 Stanford a riveting 3-2 victory over the No. 22 Broncos before 3,252 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Verloo snuck a 22-yard, right-footed shot inside the left post for the winner after her penalty kick with 54 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. All three of her goals came on set pieces, with the first coming on a curving 30-yard free kick only 1:20 into the match.
It was an impressive display from Verloo, who entered the match with two goals this season, but now has five overall.
"We showed great character to come back," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "This is one of those games that builds a winning mentality."
Despite Stanford's second-half dominance -- outshooting Santa Clara, 12-3 -- the momentum swung when Santa Clara's Sofia Huerta struck a left-footed shot inside the far post in the 83rd minute, giving the Broncos a 2-1 lead against the run of play.
As the final minutes ticked away, Stanford attacked with even more ferocity. But the great chances from earlier in the half, such as Taylor Uhl's header off the left post, weren't coming.
The penalty was a shocker because Stanford was not in a particularly threatening situation, though it was applying constant pressure.
Freshman central defender Maddie Bauer, pushing forward in an all-hands-on-deck attack, was knocked down from behind as she attempted to trap a ball with her chest on the outside edge of the penalty area.
Verloo calmly drove the spot kick home and the Cardinal was rewarded.
"It's always good to take a PK quickly and with confidence," Verloo said. "I tried to do that."
Both teams fought desperately in overtime, but as the stakes grew and the players tired, the physical nature of the match increased.
Freshman forward Ryan Walker-Hartshorn was taken down in one hard collision just outside the penalty area, to Stanford's left of the goal.
The right-footed Verloo and the left-footed Chioma Ubogagu converged on the ball to discuss who had the greater opening.
Ubogagu had taken the kick in a similar situation and from a similar spot, when her strike in the second overtime of the season opener at Boston College was deflected into the path of Stanford's Alex Doll for the winner.
Verloo, however, saw a space inside the near post that she could aim for and convinced her teammate enough to take the kick.
Santa Clara lined up with a three-person wall, that was extended by the appearance of Uhl and Walker-Hartshorn -- the better to screen Santa Clara goalkeeper Andi Tostanoski.
"We didn't know who was going to take it until we saw how they lined up," Verloo said. "We talk about it. I thought I had the opening. Scoring the earlier goal helped. I felt I had a lot of confidence for an accurate shot."
As she took the kick, Uhl and Walker-Hartshorn ducked out of the way and the ball spun through the gap. Tostanoski didn't have a chance. She didn't even dive as the ball hit the net just inside the left post, giving Stanford the victory, with 2:02 to spare.
"It felt like we had the momentum," Verloo said. "Even when they scored their second goal, the team believed we would tie it up."
The hat trick was the 29th in program history, but the first for Stanford since Christen Press accomplished the feat on the same field, against Utah during a regular-season tournament on Sept. 17, 2010.
Miraculously, Stanford extended several streaks. The Cardinal beat Santa Clara -- its most frequent all-time opponent and a team it has met nine times in NCAA tournament play -- for the ninth consecutive time.
Stanford also extended its unbeaten run on opponents' home fields to 38 since 2008; and its unbeaten streak when scoring a goal to 160.
"It comes down to being prepared." Verloo said. "We work on these every week in training. You build confidence over time. With experience, you learn how to keep your composure."
Stanford (6-0-1) completed its nonconference schedule by closing the gap in their series to 18-16-5 in Santa Clara's favor.
Stanford begins its defense of its four consecutive Pac-12 titles when it opens conference play Saturday at Colorado (noon PT).
"Any time you can rally in overtime and under pressure, it's going to build your confidence," Verloo said. "This will serve us well in the conference."
Men's water polo
Fifth-ranked Stanford finished third at the NorCal Invitational after downing host California, 12-10, in the third-place match Sunday.
The Cardinal (7-1) lost to top-ranked USC, 8-7 in overtime, in the semfinals earlier in the day.
Stanford travels to Pacific for a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match next Sunday at noon. The Cardinal beat the Tigers in overtime on Saturday.
Alex Bowen led the Cardinal with 10 goals Sunday, highlighted by a six-goal effort in the afternoon victory over California.
Bret Bonanni scored six times while Griffin Bolan, BJ Churnside, Paul Rudolph and Forrest Watkins each had a goal on the day.
Drew Holland played both contests in the cage, making a total of 19 saves, including 14 against USC.
Against California, Bowen scored twice within the opening 2:01 to make it 2-0 Cardinal, and Churnside answered a Golden Bears goal with his first of the day at the 4:20 mark.
Although Aleksa Saponjic and Luka Ivanovic brought the Golden Bears even with back-to-back goals, the Cardinal drew a 6-on-5 13 seconds before the end of the frame and Bonanni converted on the man advantage to make it 4-3 after eight minutes.
The teams traded goals in the second period, Bowen answering an Ivanovic strike then Bolan countering a goal from Farrel South minutes before the break to make it 6-5 Cardinal.
Two goals from Bowen sandwiched one from South to extend Stanford's lead to 8-6 just over two minutes into the third frame, but the momentum would shift to California minutes later.
Collin Smith got the Golden Bears within one at 8-7 with 2:50 to go in the period, and 45 seconds later Saponjic evened it up at 8-8. Giacomo Cupido then put the Golden Bears ahead for the first time with a goal at the 1:32 mark, capping a 3-0 California run that spanned just 1:18.
The Cardinal defense calmed down and stifled the Golden Bears the rest of the frame, and with 5:13 to go in the game Bonanni fired home the tying goal.
One minute later Colin Mulcahy put California back up a goal, but from the momentum turned firmly back to the Cardinal's side.
Bowen tied things up at 10-10 with 3:47 to play, and Bonanni gave the Cardinal an 11-10 lead just 53 seconds later. Bonanni added an insurance goal with 1:34 to go, and Holland and the defense preserved the win.