May 2, 2010
Denver, Colo. - It wasn't easy, but Stanford captured its sixth consecutive MPSF conference tournament title with a thrilling, 11-10 overtime win over Denver in the MPSF Championship. The Cardinal battled back from an overtime deficit, before Karen Nesbitt scored the sudden victory goal to give Stanford the victory and the tournament title. The win means Stanford will advance to the NCAA play-in game on Saturday against Massachusetts.
Stanford led early, taking a 4-2 lead to the half, but the Pioneers fought back to force overtime. After a scoreless first three minutes of OT, Denver got on the board to take a 10-9 lead with 2:28 to play. Denver won the ensuing draw control and the Cardinal appeared to be seeing its season winding down. However, Stanford refused to go down easily and forced a turnover to win back possession. The Cardinal called timeout with 48 seconds to play, knowing it needed a goal to extend the game and its season.
Coming out of the timeout, Lauren Schmidt showed why she is the two-time defending conference player of the year. Schmidt dodged into the box and delivered a strong shot from an impossible angle into the back of the net. Just 28 seconds away from the end of the season, Stanford had tied things back up and the game would head to a sudden-victory overtime period.
Stanford won the draw control to open the period as Leslie Foard added her team-leading 36th of the season. The Cardinal had a couple of chances, but two Julie Christy shots were saved and Denver regained possession. The Pioneers had limited time to advance the ball before the end of the period and were forced to hurry. Stanford created the turnover as Denver was called for a charge. Karen Nesbitt took the ball with as the game's final seconds clicked off. With just five seconds remaining, Nesbitt fired off a shot and found the back of the net for the game-winner. There was nothing left for the Cardinal to do, but celebrate.
The win not only gives the Cardinal their sixth-consecutive conference tournament title, but earns the automatic bid to the NCAA play-in game. The Cardinal will take on UMass next Saturday, May 8, at 1 p.m. at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium. Because this is an NCAA match, the game will be ticketed. Call 1-800-STANFORD for tickets.
In addition to the critical goals, both Schmidt and Nesbitt had hat tricks. Schmidt took over the team lead for points in the game with 53. The three goals give her 33 for the season to go with 20 assists.
Despite, the heroics of Schmidt and Nesbitt, it was Leigh Lucas that was named the tournament MVP. The senior midfielder had had two ground balls and two draw controls in Sunday's final. Joining Lucas on the all-tournament team from Stanford were Schmidt, Foard and goalkeeper Annie Read.
Stanford has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2006, when it lost a first round game to Northwestern. UMass is the Atlantic-10 conference champion and advanced to the play-in game on a predetermined format that had the MPSF champ and A-10 champ squaring off.