Sports

Another disappointing finish for Stanford women's soccer

 

The NCAA women's soccer title continued to elude Stanford for a second straight season.

Adriana Leon scored in the 63rd minute and Notre Dame held on to deny the top-ranked Stanford women's soccer team its chance at a national title, with the Irish recording the 1-0 victory in the NCAA championship match Sunday before a crowd of 7,833 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Irish All-American Melissa Henderson set up the goal with a nice run to the far post. The Irish are undefeated in 37 matches in which Henderson has recorded a point.

Stanford senior Christen Press, the nation's leading scorer, was held without a shot for over 66 minutes. She was held without a shot between the 18th minute and the 84th minute.

"It's very bitter," Press said. "We worked so hard for it, but at the end of the day soccer is a crazy game. I've learned over the years this is how it goes."

The Cardinal (23-1-2) was shut out for the first time since last year's national championship loss to North Carolina.

Notre Dame won its third national title, its first since 2004. Only the Tar Heels have won more championships.

The Irish became the lowest seed to win the NCAA title, beating four seeded teams to do so. Stanford was the only No. 1 seed in the Final Four.

"Please don't call this an upset," Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. "In the tournament we were the best team in the country and we showed that by the road we took. Please, give us credit."

For Stanford to have success, it must control the ball. The Cardinal likes to play possession soccer, using its defenders to switch the ball and look for open spaces to deliver the ball to or to go forward themselves.

The Irish disrupted the game plan and tried to create mismatches between their forwards and Stanford's back line.

The Cardinal trailed for just the third time all season in having its 22-match winning streak halted.

"It's a disappointing way to end the season," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "I'm proud of the team. I thought they played well."

Alina Garciamendez had a golden opportunity to score in the 59th minute, heading a ball toward the net off Lindsay Taylor's free kick.

Notre Dame also dominated the first half, getting several quality scoring opportunities. Freshman goalie Emily Oliver kept the Irish off the scoreboard with a brilliant punch save on a shot by Henderson.

Oliver, easily Stanford's star performer in the contest, added another punch save against Henderson in the first 12 minutes of the second half. She finished with six saves.

"Emily Oliver has grown so much through this year," Ratcliffe said. "She just has a real presence about her."

Oliver suffered her first loss in 21 starts, though this one was felt by everybody.

"I didn't know she was a freshman until today," Henderson said. "I think she's absolutely tremendous. She made so many great saves and I have so much respect for her and everything she did."

Press, Allison McCann, Kira Maker, and Morgan Redman all represented Stanford on the soccer field for the final time.

The Cardinal return nine starters and four All-Americans: Mariah Nogueira, Taylor, Verloo, and Teresa Noyola.

"It's been a lot of fun playing for Stanford," said Press. "It's a great team and a great program. Performances like Emily's today just inspire you. They have a great future ahead."

Stanford found Notre Dame's speed and pressure bothersome in the first 45 minutes and settled for long-range shots. Courtney Verloo had the best chance, hitting the far post on one attempt.

Stanford outshot the Irish, 7-5, in the first half but only had one shot on goal.

Press finished her brilliant career at Stanford with 183 points in 98 games, which includes 71 goals and 41 assists. All three marks are school records.

Notre Dame ended the Cardinal season for the third time, also winning NCAA contests in 2008 and 1999. Only Santa Clara has done it more often.

Stanford was hoping to become the second school to reach 100 NCAA titles, and the 40th for women's teams.

— PA Weekly Online Sports

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