Sports

Stanford men prove a head above in Pac-12 soccer action

 

The Stanford men's soccer team has won back-to-back Pac-12 championships, but had never started 3-0 in conference play until Sunday. Tomas Hilliard-Arce headed in Sam Werner's corner in the second overtime and the Cardinal beat Oregon State in Corvallis, 1-0.

The Cardinal (6-2-3, 3-0-0 Pac-12) has collected nine points on a trio of 1-0 wins to begin its league slate and posted its first three-shutout streak in conference action since 2007. Sunday's win over the Beavers (4-5-3, 0-2-2 Pac-12) gave Stanford a road sweep of Washington and Oregon State for the first time in a decade.

"It's a wonderful start," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. "Every conference game is a tough, tight battle and we've just managed to edge it in these games. We've gone in with right attitude, gone after each game the right way and been rewarded. We promised the guys that conference is going to be very tough. There are more miles to go and a lot of tough games ahead."

Werner, who come on as a substitute to assist on the winners in each of Stanford's games on the road trip, floated his service to the near post. Oregon State keeper Nolan Wirth came out to meet the ball, but the head of the Cardinal's 6-foot-1 junior center back arrived in a flash and redirected to the far post for his second career game winner and first goal of the season.

Last season, the Cardinal went to Southern California and beat UCLA and San Diego State for its first six-point conference road trip since 2006. Stanford has now swept a Pac-12 road weekend in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2001 and 2002.

"Sam's hit some good balls in and he's been doing that all year," Gunn added. "We were actually upset in double overtime because he hit a perfect ball a few minutes before and we didn't get someone on the end of it, but Tomas was able to do that the second time."

Stanford dominated the run of play in the second half and seemed poised to break through on a number of occasions. After each time was able to get off three shots in the first, the Cardinal held a 9-3 edge in that category in the second 45 minutes and a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal.

Hilliard-Arce nestled his way into the box and nearly had scores earlier in the match, but his header in the 18th wide a bit wide and his one in the 64th was saved by Wirth.

In the first half, Amir Bashti and Foster Langsdorf nearly linked up in the 34th minute, but Wirth made one of his five saves. Bashti raced to the endline and crossed to the far post to a streaking Hilliard-Arce nine minutes later, but the ball slid past his outstretched boot.

"There's always a battle to be won in the first half of the game," Gunn commented. "We were starting to get on top and to show more and more quite often. We figured out the game really well second half and managed to make lots of passes that took us out of pressure and allowed us to look forward."

Foster Langsdorf put all four of his shots on frame and nearly beat Wirth to start the second off on a cross from Beason, but was denied. Werner curled a rocket with his right foot wide from distance in the 67th and Langsdorf again challenged OSU's keeper in the 88th when he sent a bounding ball into the box that was guided away.

At the other end of the field, Stanford's defense shut down a pair of strikers in Timmy Mueller and Jordan Jones that have combined for 40 career goals. Since the start of Pac-12 play, the Cardinal has lowered its goals against average from 0.91 to 0.67. The shutout was the 18th of goalkeeper Andrew Epstein's career, tied for third in program history.

"Our back four were absolutely fantastic against very good attackers," Gunn said. "We really closed them down very well and Brian (Nana-Sinkam) and Tomas (Hilliard-Arce) battled well against two players that can bully defenses. We kept it tight and didn't give them much at all."

Stanford, 6-1 in its last seven matches, looks to keep rolling when it hosts No. 13 San Diego State (6-2-3, 1-1-1 Pac-12) on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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— Stanford Athletics

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