SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Less than a minute from suffering its first loss in the Bay Area in six years, Stanford pulled out an improbable double-overtime women’s soccer victory over its biggest rival, Santa Clara, on Sunday night.
Fifth-year senior forward Courtney Verloo completed her first collegiate hat trick by converting a free kick in the 108th minute to give No. 2 Stanford a riveting 3-2 victory over the No. 22 Broncos before 3,252 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Verloo snuck a 22-yard right-footed shot inside the left post for the winner after her penalty kick with 54 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. All three of her goals came on set pieces, with the first coming on a curving 30-yard free kick only 1:20 into the match.
It was an impressive display from Verloo, who entered the match with two goals this season, but now has five overall.
“We showed great character to come back,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “This is one of those games that builds a winning mentality.”
Despite Stanford’s second-half dominance the match swung when Santa Clara’s Sofia Huerta struck a left-footed shot inside the far post in the 83rd minute, giving the Broncos a 2-1 lead against the run of play.
As the final minutes ticked away, Stanford attacked with even more ferocity. The Cardinal would outshoot SCU, 23-13, including 16-4 after halftime, and forced Santa Clara goalkeeper Andi Tostanoski into 10 saves.
But the great chances from earlier in the second half, such as Taylor Uhl’s header off the left post, weren’t coming.
The penalty was a shocker because Stanford was not in a particularly threatening situation, though it was applying constant pressure. Freshman central defender Maddie Bauer, pushing forward in an all-hands-on-deck attack, was knocked down from behind as she attempted to trap a ball with her chest on the outside edge of the penalty area.
Verloo calmly drove the spot kick home and the Cardinal was rewarded.
“It’s always good to take a PK quickly and with confidence,” Verloo said. “I tried to do that.”
Both teams fought desperately in overtime, but as the stakes grew and the players tired, the physical nature of the match increased. Freshman forward Ryan Walker-Hartshorn was taken down in one hard collision just outside the penalty area, to Stanford’s left of the goal.
The right-footed Verloo and the left-footed Chioma Ubogagu converged on the ball to discuss who had the greater opening. Ubogagu had taken the kick in a similar situation and from a similar spot, when her strike in the second overtime of the season opener at Boston College was deflected into the path of Stanford’s Alex Doll for the winner.
Verloo, however, saw a space inside the near post that she could aim for and convinced her teammate enough to take the kick.
Santa Clara lined up with a four-person wall, joined on the right by Uhl and Walker-Hartshorn – the better to screen Tostanoski, and flanked by one more Bronco player.
“We didn’t know who was going to take it until we saw how they lined up,” Verloo said. “We talk about it. I thought I had the opening. Scoring the earlier goal helped. I felt I had a lot of confidence for an accurate shot.”
As she took the kick, Walker-Hartshorn sprinted out of the way and Uhl essentially boxed out the four-player Santa Clara wall, leaning against them to create a gap that Verloo spun the ball through. Tostanoski, possibly screened, did not dive as the ball edged inside the post, giving Stanford the victory, with 2:02 to spare.
“It felt like we had the momentum,” Verloo said. “Even when they scored their second goal, the team believed we would tie it up.”
The goal created a frenzy on Stanford social media, from student and fans who watched in person or on the ESPNU telecast.
"That free kick was sick," tweeted Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan.
"So freaking stoked for @StanfordWSoccer and my girl Court wth the hat trick!!!" tweeted former Stanford All-America Mariah Nogueira, in attendence at Buck Shaw.
The hat trick was the 29th in program history, but the first for Stanford since Christen Press accomplished the feat on the same field, against Utah during a regular-season tournament on Sept. 17, 2010.
Miraculously, Stanford extended several streaks. The Cardinal beat Santa Clara – its most frequent all-time opponent and a team it has met nine times in NCAA tournament play -- for the ninth consecutive time. Stanford also extended its unbeaten run on opponents’ home fields to 38 since 2008; and its unbeaten streak when scoring a goal to 160.
“It comes down to being prepared.” Verloo said. “We work on these every week in training. You build confidence over time. With experience, you learn how to keep your composure.“
Stanford (7-0-1) completed its nonconference schedule by beating Santa Clara (4-3-1) for the ninth consecutive time.
Stanford begins its defense of its four consecutive Pac-12 titles when it opens conference play Saturday at Colorado (noon PT).
“Any time you can rally in overtime and under pressure, it’s going to build your confidence,” Verloo said. “This will serve us well in the conference.”