Nov. 27, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - With a precision and confidence not seen from Stanford during the NCAA women's soccer tournament until Friday night, the top-ranked Cardinal rides into the College Cup peaking at the right time.
Stanford answered an early Boston College goal with one of its own, only 50 seconds later, to ignite a going-away 3-1 victory over Boston College in a quarterfinal match before a sellout crowd of 2,200 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
Behind two goals from Kelley O'Hara and a goal and two assists from Christen Press, Stanford (24-0) continues its dream season by advancing to the semifinals for the second consecutive season and third time in school history. The Cardinal plays Saturday's UCLA-Portland winner in College Station, Texas, on Friday. A victory would lift Stanford its first championship final, on Sunday.
"This was our best performance of the tournament so far," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We played great possession soccer and generated a lot of fantastic chances."
Stanford now ventures within two victories of the first perfect season since 2003 and would be the first non-North Carolina team to accomplish the feat. The thought seemed far more realistic Friday than it did after any of Stanford's other three tournament victories - over Northern Arizona, BYU and Santa Clara - during which Stanford struggled and even looked panicked at times.
Not so in this one, not even when No. 7 Boston College (18-4-2), the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season co-champion, shocked the Cardinal by scoring only 1:42 into the match. Julia Bouchelle collected a pass from Victoria DiMartino in the box and sent a shot past a diving Kira Maker and off the right post before deflecting in.
It was the first time Stanford had trailed since falling behind Washington State in an eventual 2-1 overtime victory Oct. 23, and only the fifth time all season.
"That goal just came out of nowhere," Press said. "But watching the way our team responded as soon as we got the ball back, I had positive thoughts."
Boston College had little opportunity to savor the lead, because O'Hara answered back only 50 seconds later. Christen Press bounced off the crossbar to O'Hara, who buried the rebound at 2:25 to tie the score.
O'Hara, playing her final home match, extended her single-season goal-scoring record to 25 when she put Stanford ahead in the 26th minute. A flick forward by Lindsay Taylor, and a touch pass by Press, released a sprinting O'Hara on a breakaway, scoring from 15 yards out.
"The thing about Kelley O'Hara is that she is the biggest goal scorer in the country, and she's also the hardest working soccer player I've seen," Boston College coach Alison Kulik said. "Sometimes in all sports you see leading scorers pick and choose their time and maybe get a little bit soft at times. But not Kelley O'Hara.
"I have a lot of respect for the fact that that kid is always tracking back into her back third, is hard working, and also trying to set people up. She deserves to be on the full national team."
O'Hara will have that chance, joining the U.S. national team for a camp after the College Cup. It will be bittersweet in many ways for O'Hara, who is moving out of Stanford on Wednesday and will not return until next fall, when she will complete her degree in Science, Technology, and Society.
O'Hara will fly from Texas to Los Angeles for the national team camp Dec. 5-15 in Carson -- where she will take her finals -- go home to Georgia for Christmas and then prepare for the Women's Professional Soccer season. She is projected to be one of the top picks in the WPS draft Jan. 15.
The second goal also represented the school-record breaking 15th assist of the season for Press, who broke Marcie Ward's mark of 14 from 2000.
Press closed out her record-setting evening by clinching the match with an 85th-minute strike. Central defender Alicia Jenkins found Press breaking with a deep ball that set up a one-on-one against goalkeeper Jillian Mastroianni. Press buried the shot for her 20th goal of the season.
Stanford, which outshot B.C. 30-5, now has 78 goals as a team. Forty-five of those have come from O'Hara and Press. According to research by collegesoccer360.com, the two became only the 12th set of teammates in history to tally 55 points apiece.
"We work well together and have good chemistry and we've done a great job of learning each other's tendencies," O'Hara said of Press. "At the same time, we have an incredible team behind us and I thought they really put on a show tonight."