The Stanford men's soccer team had battled second-seeded Washington to a stalemate, and was even the more threatening team over the final 45 minutes of Sunday's third-round NCAA Tournament match. But, an 85th-minute header off a throw-in allowed the Huskies to escape with a 1-0 win in Seattle.
The loss ends Stanford's campaign with a mark of 10-7-4, the Cardinal's first 10-win season since 2009. For the fifth time in its past five NCAA Tournament appearances, the Cardinal reached the postseason's Round of 16.
"I'm extremely proud of the way the team played all season and the way we played tonight," said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. "Conditions were tough so it was always going to be a super-tight game. It was very much a chess game, with neither team wanting to give away a mistake."
The teams spent the opening 45 minutes moving their pieces around the proverbial board, feeling for openings and defending well. The team combined for just five chances, with none coming on frame. The best chance of the half for either side came in the 34th minute, when freshman Jordan Morris was played up the right flank and into the box where his shot went just wide and into the side netting.
It was in the second half that the action picked up, with each team forcing a save from the opposing keeper within the opening 12 minutes. Stanford withstood some attacking from Washington as the half got underway, then picked up the initiative and put together good stretches of possession and passing to set up some dangerous chances.
"In the second half we started to get a bit more comfortable, we had some of the better chances," Gunn said. "As the game went on I thought we were looking pretty good. We defended the set pieces absolutely fantastically, they just had one too many for us."
The first of those came in the 70th minute when Bobby Edwards came up the right flank and from a tough angle played to the near post, forcing a save from Husky goalkeeper Ryan Herman. Five minutes later Aaron Kovar got a look but had his shot blocked and out for a corner kick.
Stanford continued to push forward with Washington shifting to the back foot, and in the 80th minute nearly took what would have been a well-deserved lead. A patient spell of possession freed Morris into the box to Herman's right, but the freshman blazed over the bar from about 12 yards away.
That ended up being the Cardinal's last best chance. Stanford pressed forward over the final five minutes of regulation and got the ball into the box a few times, but the Husky defense was able to clear out each time.
"It was an outstanding season, and we have a great group of guys, the whole group bought in and worked hard," Gunn reflected about the season. "You always want to play good soccer and win soccer games but more importantly, day to day, you want to have fun with the group you work with.
"We had an outstanding group of seniors in JJ Koval, Drew Hutchins and Ty Conklin this year. Their leadership was brilliant and they put everything they had into this run, I'm just really, really happy for them that they got to end their Stanford careers with a nice run."