The final chapter was written last week when Stanford senior Teresa Noyola won the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy on Friday, becoming the third Cardinal player in as many years to win college soccer's highest honor.
Noyola, a midfielder from Palo Alto High, was announced as the winner during a ceremony attended by the three finalists, including teammate Lindsay Taylor, the runner-up, and Penn State sophomore Maya Hayes. Duke forward Andrew Wenger captured the men's award.
"I had no idea what to expect," Noyola said. "I'm very proud, and L.T. was equally deserving. She's a class act - I already knew that. We were going to be happy for each other either way."
The Palo Alto native follows former teammates Kelley O'Hara (2009) and Christen Press (2010) in creating an unprecedented achievement in the 24 years of the women's award. It marks the first time in its history that three different players from the same school have won the award in consecutive years.
Former youth teammates Noyola and Taylor, a Castilleja grad, were part of a Stanford senior class that went 95-4-4 over its four years, including 53-0-1 at home, and reached the NCAA College Cup four times, reaching three consecutive finals.
In her final match, Noyola provided the winning goal, on a far-post header in the 53rd minute, to beat Duke, 1-0, in Kennesaw, Ga., and provide Stanford with its first national championship.
Noyola has proceeded to capture an array of honors this season, earning the NSCAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the Honda Award, College Cup Offensive MVP, Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and her third NSCAA first-team All-America honor.
"It's nice to be acknowledged," Noyola said. "But it's hard to get individual awards when winning a national championship is really a team achievement."
Noyola, a math and computational science major who carried a 3.52 cumulative grade-point average into the fall quarter, becomes only the second female player to unite the Hermann and NSCAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. The first was Portland's Christine Sinclair in 2005.
Her statistics — nine goals and 15 assists — were impressive, but they did not reveal the depth of her game. Noyola was a brilliant playmaker who helped create the opportunities that Taylor, Press, and O'Hara took advantage of to become among the top scorers in Stanford history.
Noyola totaled 31 goals and 40 assists for 102 career points, placing her ninth of the school's all-time points list. She also finished one away from Press' records for assists in a career and season.
After the announcement, Press texted Noyola with a message of congratulations.
"You look at the list of players who have won this award, and it's really amazing," Noyola said of all-time greats such as Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, and Kristine Lilly, as well as O'Hara and Press. "It's humbling to be a part of.
"I feel incredibly lucky to have played with Kelley and Christen. They've been role models in many ways."
An NSCAA Youth and High School All-America while at Palo Alto High, Noyola becomes the first player to earn every NSCAA individual player honor at each level (Youth Player of the Year in 2006, High School Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2007 and the Hermann Trophy and College Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2011).
The award completes an unforgettable 2011 for Noyola that also included a World Cup appearance while playing for Mexico. But, in the end, the singular highlight came on Dec. 4.
"Nothing beats winning a national championship," Noyola said. "In the end, that's the most important thing."