Dec. 4, 2009
College Station, Texas - Stanford won the battle of Pac-10 rivals at the NCAA Women's College Cup on Friday, needing a golden goal in overtime to dispatch of top-seeded UCLA, 2-1 on cold and breezy afternoon at Texas A&M's Aggie Soccer Stadium. With the loss, the Bruins end their season 21-3-1 overall, while the undefeated Cardinal (25-0) advance to play North Carolina in Sunday's NCAA Final. The Tar Heels defeated Notre Dame, 1-0 in their semifinal encounter on Friday.
"First I'd like to congratulate Stanford," said UCLA head coach Jillian Ellis. "I wish them all the best in the final. They are part of our conference. I thought my team left it all out on the field. We played with great heart and great passion. Stanford is a very good team, but I thought we gave them a very good match. I'm very proud of my players."
Both sides played even soccer for the first 45 minutes of play, with each team creating several quality scoring chances. UCLA senior forward Kristina Larsen had perhaps the best chance of the half in the 26th minute when she unleashed a 24-yard bullet that Stanford goalkeeper Kira Maker was forced to make a great save on. Another solid scoring opportunity for the Bruins came in the 34th minute when Sydney Leroux got endline and sent a cross over to the near post that forward Lauren Cheney pushed just wide of the goal.
Stanford's best opportunity came with about 10 minutes left in the half when Camille Levin sent a cross from the left side into the box. Kelley O'Hara got a head on it and it appeared to be going into the goal. Bruin defender Lauren Barnes flew in and cleared it off the line with a header of her own.
O'Hara would get another chance and made the most of it this time, as she broke a scoreless tie in the 64th minute on a 20-yard shot from the right side. Christen Press played a ball in to O'Hara near the top of the box. With her back to the goal, she faked right and then moved to her left before unleashing a right-footed shot into the top of the net. Bruin goalkeeper Chante' Sandiford made an attempt for the ball, however it sailed in too high for her to get a hand on.
Down 1-0 with less than 15 minutes to play, UCLA pulled even when Cheney scored on a shot nearly identical to O'Hara's. Lauren Wilmoth threw the ball in to Kylie Wright, who one-timed it to Cheney near the top of the box. She spun to her left before unleashing a right-footed shot that curved into the upper-left corner of the goal.
"Kylie played me the ball," said Cheney. "Their defenders had been playing hard. They wanted me to turn. I spun the girl, took a look and saw I had a shot."
Cheney's goal tied her with Traci Arkenberg for first place all-time at UCLA in career goals, as both players ended their four-year careers with 71 apiece. Cheney also ends her UCLA career with a school-record 173 points.
"It's obviously an honor to have broken records at UCLA," added Cheney. "There have been great players come through this program. Besides records and College Cups, I hope I leave a mark other than just that. Everyone on this team is special. It's just been amazing. Every team goes through ups and downs. I've never met a bunch of girls as amazing as this."
UCLA nearly took a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute when Leroux beat both a Stanford defender and Maker to a loose ball just inside the top of the box. Leroux's right-footed shot sailed just over the crossbar.
UCLA dodged a bullet with just seconds remaining in regulation, as O'Hara got loose in the Bruin box. Sandiford came out to challenge, however O'Hara got by her, leaving an empty net with just two Bruin defenders back to cover. Fortunately for UCLA, O'Hara's right-footed shot banked off the outer edge of the right post and out of play.
Stanford's Christen Press ended the game just 3:25 into the first overtime period when she got free deep in UCLA territory. Her 24-yard low-liner beat a diving Sandiford to the far post, clearing the Cardinal bench in celebration. Sandiford made a great effort to dive for the ball, however it was just placed too perfectly.
"I thanked my seniors in the locker room for their contributions over the past four years," said Ellis. "I told my team to step off the field with their heads held high. I thought we played exceptionally well. It's unfortunate it has to end. I know I don't have any regrets with this team coming off the field and the way we played the game. This team has been phenomenally special to me. No regrets."