Sophia Smith and Carly Malatskey are likely among the most grateful of women soccer players at Stanford, each able to contribute in a game of such magnitude on Friday night despite being slowed by injuries in the past.
Smith recorded her second hat trick of the postseason and Malatskey scored her first postseason goal (second of her career) as the top-ranked and top-seeded Stanford women’s soccer team downed Pac-12 rival UCLA 4-1 in the NCAA national semifinals Friday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.
Katie Meyer stopped a penalty kick for the Cardinal (23-1), which meets North Carolina for the national title on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
“It will be a good game. It’s obviously two really good teams going after it," Stanford junior Madison Haley said. "I think the focus will still remain on us and sticking to our game plan. Hopefully we can put together a great offensive performance and try to make things difficult for them. I think it will be a good game and a good matchup.”
Smith, who has seven postseason goals, scored tie the game and then scored twice mo to extend a lead. Malatskey's goal put Stanford ahead to stay.
"This whole time I was hungry to score," Malatskey said. "It's an incredible feeling to put my team up."
Malatskey put together a signature senior season after being slowed by injury. A highly-touted striker out of high school, she's been able to display her scorintg skills now that she's healthy.
"Carly has been tremendous," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "I was so proud of her to get a goal today. She deserves a goal in a big game like that because she works so hard.”
The Tar Heels (24-1-1) beat Washington State 2-1 in the earlier semifinal.
The Bruins (18-5-1) scored in the seventh minute to take the early lead but Smith answered with an unassisted goal less than three minutes later to tie it and spark the Cardinal rally.
"It seems like everything is coming together," Smith said. "We came out and conceded a goal and that was a wake-up call. This means a lot to me but it means more to the team."
Malatskey found the back of the net after some fancy footwork from Kiara Pickett and Madison Haley.
Haley also assisted on Smith’s second goal.
"I want to do what's needed for the team," Haley said. "I have no problem doing the defensive work; the dirty work but no one on our team has a problem with it.
"I'm not sure I had some huge plan," Haley said. "I turned and saw Sophia running from behind and getting open, so I figured 'why not' and gave it to her."
The Bruins had a chance to get back into the match when Stanford defender Kennedy Wesley toppled UCLA's Mia Fishel inside the penalty area, setting up a Fishel penalty kick. But Meyer dived to her left to make the save at the post in the waning minutes of the first half to preserve the two-goal lead.
"That was a massive play that really changed the momentum," Ratcliffe said. "Katie was obviously disappointed in the first goal and how she conceded that, so she had something to prove. She’s a great competitor and made a massive save on that PK.”
Stanford, winners of five consecutive Pac-12 titles, beat UCLA for the seventh consecutive time. This was their third College Cup matchup and first that wasn't decided by a single goal.
Stanford’s 102 goals lead the NCAA and are a program record, 11 more than the previous mark set in 2017. In the last 14 games, Stanford has a goal differential of 68-4, and 102-12 this season.
Notre Dame was the last collegiate team, in 2007, to record at least 100 goals in a season.