Sept. 9, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - In what could be described as more saga than soccer, Stanford scored twice in the final 10 minutes to rally past Notre Dame, 2-1, in a lightning-interrupted epic Friday night.
Mariah Nogueira's 88th-minute header provided a measure of satisfaction after last season's NCAA championship loss to the Irish, and capped a night that began with the energy of a sellout crowd on the opening night of an expanded Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
"I expect us to beat Notre Dame, that's my feeling," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "I wanted to beat them in the national championship and I thought we should have. But on the day, it wasn't that way.
"I'm happy we were able to beat them, but it's just another game. We've got to keep growing."
But it didn't seem like "just another game." The crowd of 1,960 arrived at the debut of the new eastside stands that added 400 reserve seats and placed fans almost directly on top of the field. Stanford, also boosted by the return of three injured players back in the starting lineup, obviously was energized by the big crowd.
But with 1:07 left in the first half, a lightning strike above the stadium caused the match to be stopped for 49 minutes. And because it had started an hour late anyway because of the length of two earlier matches on the same field, play didn't resume until 9:56 p.m. (it ended at 10:58 p.m.). By the time it did so, most of the crowd had left for good.
"It was kind of like living through a dream a little bit in the second half," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "All the energy was gone. It was strange that way."
When Melissa Henderson headed in a cross from Mandy Laddish to give No. 8 Notre Dame (3-3) the lead in the 67th minute, the Cardinal seemed to slip into the doldrums. While scrambling to save the ball on the play, Stanford goalkeeper Emily Oliver slammed her leg against the post and was unable to continue.
Oliver had made seven saves, following up on her brilliant performance against the Irish in the NCAA final, but was forced to give way to Aly Gleason.
No. 2 Stanford (5-0-1) eventually snapped out of it because of a lift from a rash of subs. Defenders Kendall Romine and Rachel Quon returned to the lineup after injuries, but were not in top condition. With about 15 minutes left, Ratcliffe brought Madeleine Thompson, Annie Case, and Natalie Griffen into the backline and moved Camille Levin up to attacking midfield.
The changes, "brought some life back in the team," Ratcliffe said.
Over the next 14 minutes following Notre Dame's goal, Ratcliffe made eight substitutions and the renewed energy was easily apparent.
One of the subs, Marjani Hing-Glover, hustled to keep a play alive in Notre Dame territory and fed the ball the Lindsay Taylor, who unleashed a scorching 25-yard shot that looked like a slider as it tailed inside the right post for the tying goal in the 81st minute.
"Momentum was on our side," Ratcliffe said. "And we finished it off."
In another hustle play, Levin fought through defenders to reach the end line on the dribble and force a corner. Taylor's subsequent kick found the head of Nogueira at the back post for the winner with 2:23 to go.
The goal was significant for Nogueira in several ways. It was her first match back after missing three weeks of action with a shoulder injury, and it was her second career goal against Notre Dame. Her first collegiate goal, in 2009, broke a second-half tie against the Irish in a 2-0 victory.
Though they seemed in jeopardy, several streaks remained alive because of the victory: Stanford extended its home winning streak to 39, its home unbeaten streak to 43, and its regular-season unbeaten streak to 48.
"It shows tremendous character that they can come back from a goal down," Ratcliffe said. "It shows this team has the qualities necessary to win a national championship, because character is a big part of winning a national championship."
Stanford took the lead in the four-team Stanford Nike Invitational because of a 1-1 draw in the other tournament match between UC Irvine and Santa Clara. The Cardinal resumes play Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cagan against UCI (5-0-1), and No. 17 Santa Clara (3-0-3) plays host to Notre Dame.
Last December 5, on a chilly afternoon in Cary, N.C., Stanford suffered a loss that continues to sting for the Cardinal's 19 returning players. But Friday night, that sting eased just a little.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics