A Foster Langsdorf winner, some stout defense and a victory on the road in the quarterfinals. Stanford used a familiar script to knock off Louisville 2-0 on Saturday and book its second consecutive trip to the College Cup.
"I thought it was an incredibly gutsy performance," Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said. "Louisville is a wonderful soccer team. I don't think it always went our way in midfield and up front, but our back four was incredible yet again and kept Louisville at bay. Our players showed that wonderful commitment to working hard defensively while the other team was in ascendency and we were still carving out great chances in a tight game."
Last season on the road against another ACC foe in Wake Forest, Langsdorf's winning header came in the 97th. The suspense didn't build for as long in Louisville, as Stanford's junior striker knocked in the deciding goal in the 64th.
Freshman Derek Waldeck lined up to take one of the Cardinal's three corners from the far flag and whipped in his service to the middle of the six where Langsdorf rose up in a crowd. The Co-Pac-12 Player of the Year flicked the ball on goal, it took a small deflection off a Louisville defender and sailed in for his 15th of the year.
Langsdorf took over the national lead with his eighth game-winner of the season and his 15 goals are the most for a Stanford player in 35 years. The Cardinal last had a 15-goal scorer in 1981 when Willie Guicci tallied 22.
Stanford added some insurance in the 79th when Sam Werner knocked in a set piece from 30-yards out, beautifully curling in his free kick to the top corner and in an impossible location for Louisville keeper Stefan Cleveland.
The Cardinal defense shut down an offense that had been averaging 1.81 goals per game and hadn't been held scoreless since its regular-season finale on Oct. 28. Andrew Epstein made four saves to collect his 22nd career clean sheet and up his overall record to 45-8-10 (.794).
The shutout was the fifth straight in the postseason for Stanford. The Cardinal will head to the College Cup not having allowed a goal in its last 512:17 of postseason action.
"Our defenders performed perfectly tonight," Gunn said. "They built the ball well and started the attack for us and defensively each time they were called upon they took care of business."
Louisville nearly went ahead on the counter in the 55th minute when Tate Schmitt worked himself free in the box. Adam Mosharrafa raced back from his position at right back and tackled the ball away cleanly to thwart a dangerous 1-on-1 opportunity for the Cardinals.
Big defensive stops came from all across Stanford's back line of Mosharrafa, Brian Nana-Sinkam, Tomas Hilliard-Arce and Tanner Beason to lower the Cardinal's 2016 goals against average to 0.62.
The Cardinal and Tar Heels have met once before in a NCAA semifinal in 2001. North Carolina took that one 4-3 in quadruple overtime and beat Indiana 2-0 two days later to claim its first of two national championships in men's soccer.
Stanford is a repeat College Cup participant despite replacing five starters from a year ago who accounted for 53 percent of the Cardinal's goals, 48 percent of its assists and 52 percent of its points in 2015.
"We've said it all along," Gunn commented. "We graduated out incredible players and people that had been heartbeat of the team. What you hope as a staff is to create a culture that celebrates graduating on great players and then cultivates the next great player to come along. That's what we've managed to do this year."
Stanford and North Carolina will played the second semifinal at 7:45 p.m. CT/5:45 p.m. PT after Denver and Wake Forest at 5 p.m. CT/3 p.m.
Stanford finished its Fall season on a high note by claiming multiple NCAA qualifying times on Day 4 of the Texas Invitational at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.
"Based on the qualifying standard, we picked up 11 qualifiers for the NCAA championship meet this week," said Goldman Family Director of Men's Swimming Ted Knapp. "True Sweetser, Patrick Conaton, Matt Anderson and Andrew Liang thoroughly earned their cuts today, and we were very pleased with the 400-yard freestyle relay effort."
In the first swim of the evening session, Stanford once again showed its depth by putting three swimmers in the top five of the 1,650-yard freestyle. Sweetser (14:35.03) led the Cardinal in second place, followed by Liam Egan (14:53.07) in fourth and Grant Shoults (14:53.44) in fifth.
Patrick Conaton (1:41.60) followed it up with a second consecutive runner-up finish in the 200-yard backstroke. Jack Walsh (1:45.72) was third in the B-final, Benjamin Ho (1:45.96) took fifth and Abrahm DeVine (1:47.38) was eighth.
Sam Perry (42.55) paced the Cardinal in the 100-yard freestyle A-final, finishing second by just .31 seconds. Cole Cogswell (43.65) finished third in the B-final while shaving .41 seconds off his preliminary time.
Matt Anderson (1:55.26) and Maxwell Williamson (1:45.32) scored podium finishes in the 200-yard breaststroke, finishing second and third, respectively.
Jimmy Yoder (1:44.29) led Stanford in the 200-yard butterfly, finishing third. Shoults (1:48.79) finished eighth in the A-final, and Tom Kremer (1:45.17) dropped 1.69 seconds from his preliminary time to finish third in the B-final.
Stanford's team of Perry, Kremer, Cogswell and Conaton (2:52.70) placed third in the 400-yard freestyle relay, the final event of the meet.
Liang (45.93) also picked up an NCAA standard time in a 100-yard butterfly time trial.
Stanford returns to the pool Jan. 6 when it hosts Pacific at Avery Aquatics Center.
Junior Reid Travis scored a career-high 29 points, including a school-record 19 free throws to lead Stanford, but No. 4 Kansas outlasted the Cardinal, 89-74, Saturday afternoon in front of 16,300 fans at Allen Fieldhouse.
Travis, who also collected nine rebounds in the contest, finished 19-of-22 from the free throw line to break Todd Lichti's 29-year mark of 18 free throws against UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 28, 1987).
Stanford (6-3) and Kansas played even for most of the first half, before the Jayhawks used a 16-4 run to jump out to a double-digit lead in the closing minutes of the period. Stanford got back within eight at halftime, 43-35, with Travis leading the way with 12 points in the opening 20 minutes.
The game marked the return of Stanford head coach Jerod Haase to Lawrence. Haase was a standout player for the Jayhawks from 1995-97. He received a standing ovation when he was introduced to the soldout crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.
"Certainly an emotional day," Haase said. "My emotions right now are more frustrated we didn't play at a higher level, but for me personally, it means a lot -- the reception. I remember clearly walking into Allen Fieldhouse when I was first recruited," Haase said, "and I think I'll remember the feeling at shootaround today, walking into the arena."
Joey McKenna claimed the 141-pound title at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, while Stanford finished 11th as a team with 59.5 points.
McKenna, ranked No. 2 in the nation, becomes the first Cardinal wrestler since Tanner Gardner in 2007 to win a title at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite. The Towaco, New Jersey native is now 13-0 on the season.
In the finals, McKenna defeated seventh-ranked Bryce Meredith of Wyoming, 3-1. The win avenged McKenna's 2016 NCAA semifinals loss to Meredith. There was no score after the opening period. McKenna chose down to start the third and quickly tallied the escape. He secured a takedown as time expired in the second for a 3-0 advantage. Meredith scored an escape in the third, but was unable to finish any of his shots as McKenna held on for the victory.