Stanford men’s soccer captain JJ Koval netted a brace to highlight the Cardinal attack in its 2-1 win over Grand Canyon Friday night at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
Stanford (2-1-1) outshot the Antelopes 25-2 in the match and put 10 shots on frame. Koval’s goals, also his first two of the season, brought the Cardinal back after Grand Canyon took a shock 1-0 lead just 11 minutes into the match.
“We gave up a goal we can’t afford to do, it was an unbelievable strike, but that being said apart from that the players played really well, we put them under complete pressure all game,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. “We played some loely stuff tonight. On another night we could have scored a few more but we put them under immense pressure, created good chances and had scramble after scramble, chance after chance. We’re happy with the result, happy with the performance.”
That goal came against the run of play as Gerrit Thomes found himself in possession about 30 yards from goal in the 11th minute and fired a laser to the low far post that eluded a diving Drew Hutchins. Four minutes later Alberto Sanchez Garcia would shoot wide but that would end up being the final shot of the match for the Antelopes as Hutchins and his back line of Brandon Vincent, Brian Nana-Sinkam, Ty Conklin and midfielder Jimmy Callinan locked things up for the final 75 minutes.
Stanford dominated possession throughout, forcing eight saves from Antelopes goalkeeper Joshua Zehring. Zach Batteer forced saves from Zehring in the ninth and 23rd minutes and Koval’s attempt at a difficult angle from close range was snuffed out in the 26th minute.
Grand Canyon spent much of the match playing off of the Cardinal midfielders, opting to protect the box while Aaron Kovar and Ty Thompson sent multiple crosses into the area. Just past the half-hour Stanford finally grabbed it’s equalizer, as Aaron Kovar worked his way free along the left flank and sent a cross to the far post where Koval’s header went into the line and up into the top of the goal.
It was the first goal of the season for the Cardinal captain, and minutes later he would get the chance at a second when the Cardinal earned a penalty after the Antelopes were called for handling the ball in the box. Koval stepped up and sent Zehring the wrong way, finishing for the eventual winner.
“This whole week we’ve been working a lot on the crossing and finishing, really being first in the box,” Koval said. “Especially with Kovar, that’s a connection the two of us have, getting the ball to [Kovar] and getting around to the back post. It felt great to tie it up and give our team some momentum, the team responded very well.”
“He’s great in the air, he was winning all of his headers throughout the game. We’re happy for him, he deserves it, he leads the team very well and he’s a shining example for the other players,” Gunn noted.
Eric Verso nearly made it 3-1 two minutes shy of the break, blasting a shot at Zehring that rebounded right back to his foot, where his second offering was blocked.
Stanford would outshoot Grand Canyon 13-0 over the final 45 minutes, just missing on numerous chances to build its lead. Freshman Jordan Morris sent a header over the bar in the 54th minute, while Batteer sent one wide eight minutes later. The Cardinal’s best chance of the second half came in the 76th minute when substitute Mark Verso’s blast stung the hands of Zehring, leaving the rebound to the feet of Batteer who with the goal at his mercy pushed the second chance just wide of the near post.
Kovar forced a pair of saves out of Zehring with 10 minutes to play and a final effort from Batteer with 11 seconds remaining was stopped.