It's not supposed to end this way. Not after dominating a soccer game for 107 minutes. Let your guard down for a moment and it does end, with a sickening thud.
The second-ranked Cardinal women never found a clear path to the back of the net -- Melissa Lowder was always stepping in the way to the tune of 14 saves -- and fell, 1-0, in double overtime to visiting nemesis Santa Clara in the second round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.
Stanford (18-2-1) outshot the Broncos (11-6-4) 31-7, with 14 shots on goal, and were relentless attacking the final third throughout the game. Santa Clara goalkeeper Melissa Lowder was just as stubborn in turning every shot away.
"I was proud of the team's effort," said Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe. "They had a really strong and dominant performance but at the end of day you need to score and we weren't able to do that."
The Broncos capitalized in the 108th minute when a Cardinal clearance was intercepted in Stanford's defensive zone.
Santa Clara's Natalie Kennedy sent a cross from the right sideline to the back post. Jenna Holtz took a touch, collided with a Stanford defender, then hit a shot into the lower right corner of the goal.
It is the first time Stanford has been eliminated before the third round since 2005. The loss snapped the Cardinal's 30-game postseason home unbeaten streak and ended a three-game winning streak against the Broncos in NCAA tournament play. It was only the second time Stanford was shut out this season.
Stanford's senior class of Jane Campbell, Maddie Bauer, Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, Siobhan Cox and Megan Turner conclude their careers with a 72-12-7 record (.830), two Pac-12 titles and a 2014 College Cup appearance.
"My final message to the team was that I was so proud of what they accomplished through the whole year, winning the Pac-12 championship and so many great wins," said Ratcliffe. "It was a really fun team to work with and I enjoyed working with each of them."
Campbell was not tested in goal often but made a pair of crucial saves in the second half to keep the score knotted at 0-0 through regulation. She ends her career as one of the most accomplished goalkeepers in Stanford history, ranking in the top five in goalkeeping minutes played (1st, 7432), shutouts (t-1st, 35), saves (t-3rd, 210) and goals-against average (5th, 0.65).
The Cardinal defense was outstanding. Bauer and Alana Cook were strong in the central positions, regularly making tackles and intercepting passes. Tegan McGrady was particularly impressive on the left side, shutting down the Broncos' attack and going forward to create opportunities. Carly Malatskey played well on the right side to limit Santa Clara's attack.
Stanford had numerous opportunities throughout the game – from point-blank range, on set pieces, inside the penalty box, long-range shots – but none of the efforts were successful.
The Cardinal came out firing in the first half, outshooting Santa Clara, 13-1. Stanford faced increased pressure from the Broncos in the second half but still managed a 14-5 advantage in shots.
Pac-12 Player of the Year Andi Sullivan led Stanford with eight shots, including six on goal, and showcased her elite skill through the midfield. Michelle Xiao generated multiple highlights up top and produced seven shots.
The Cardinal created a couple offensive opportunities in the first overtime period, generating a trio of attempts in the final third, but again were unsuccessful.
Stanford was dealt a significant blow at the beginning of the second overtime in the 101st minute when Sullivan missed a tackle and landed awkwardly. She was helped off the field and did not return to the game.
The game opened up in the final period of play and Santa Clara capitalized in the 108th minute with the game-winning goal.
Stanford will graduate a talented and accomplished senior class but expects to return 18 letterwinners with a wealth of experience and talent next season.