It was the first weekend of the year for UC Santa Barbara students but Stanford forward Jordan Morris made sure they had one less reason to party Friday night, netting a 95th-minute winner to give the Cardinal (5-1-1) a 2-1 win over the Gauchos (4-4-0) in front of 7,750 at Harder Stadium.
It was the second win in two years for the Cardinal in Santa Barbara, as the team captured a 1-0 overtime win last October.
“This was such a tough game in every sense, Santa Barbara threw everything at us and it was an incredible effort by our players to continuously weather the storm and stay composed and play soccer when we had the opportunities to,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn.
“It was an electrifying atmosphere and every time they got to go forward the crowd was deafening,” Gunn added. But it was just an incredible performance by our team. Maybe you can’t claim it to be our best performance but you could claim it to be our gutsiest performance. It is something that I’m very proud of. It would have been easy to fold [when Santa Barbara tied it up in the second half], they had the momentum. But we were gutsy, determined and we kept ourselves in the hunt and I’m very proud of our guys.”
After coming tantalizingly close to netting his first collegiate goal over the past six matches, Morris finally opened his account Friday, scoring twice. His goals paced the Cardinal to its fifth straight win, its longest winning streak since going on a six-match run from Sept. 4-27, 2009.
Morris’ unassisted winner came from a scramble about 25 yards from goal. The ball ping-ponged through a group of players, last ricocheting off of Gaucho midfielder Drew Murphy and to Morris, who one-timed a shot into the back of the net for the winner.
The Mercer Island, Wash. native had opened the scoring in the 31st minute, nodding in Aaron Kovar’s free kick. His brace marked the fourth this season for a Stanford player, joining Zach Batteer (Aug. 30 vs. Maryland, Sept. 20 vs. College of Charleston) and JJ Koval (Sept. 13 vs. Grand Canyon) on the list.
“It was lovely for Jordan to get off the mark tonight and get on the scoresheet. The goal should be looking pretty large for him in the future,” Gunn said.
Goalkeeper Drew Hutchins, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, made five saves in a solid showing Friday night despite having his scoreless run of 311:56 snapped by Peter Schmetz’ 53rd-minute goal.
Stanford wouldn’t let the raucous crowd get to excited early as Koval sent an effort wide from a corner kick in the second minute. Griffin Boyoko and Kovar traded shots in the early going before Hutchins became the first goalkeeper called into action, saving a header from Achille Campion in the 24th minute.
A foul in the 30th minute by Santa Barbara would set up the opener for Stanford. Kovar swung in another of his deadly crosses and this one found Morris, who went near post with the header past Josh McNeely.
Batteer would force a save from McNeely in the 43rd minute, and the Gauchos would earn a corner 36 seconds before halftime but both chances went to naught before the break.
The Gauchos came out for the second half with a purpose and their efforts paid off just over seven minutes into the period. Paul Ehmann was able to use his head to volley the ball into the path of Peter Schmetz who slotted in from the right for the equalizer.
Santa Barbara, with the crowd firmly behind it, attempted to press on for the go-ahead score but the Cardinal defense refused to yield. Hutchins turned away a Reed McKenna effort in the 68th minute and 12 minutes later got an assist from the post, which denied Ehmann a second.
The Gauchos threw numbers forward over the final 10 minutes but Hutchins and the Cardinal back line remained resolute. A Gaucho corner kick in the 83rd minute was cleared out, Hutchins denied Duncan Backus a minute later, and in the 85th minute the Cardinal goalkeeper again did well to deny Boyoko off of another UCSB corner.
The storm passed, and the Cardinal and Gauchos went into extra time for the second year in a row. Each team made one effort at goal but it was Stanford’s that was the kill shot. Only 48 seconds after Hutchins stopped a header from Campion, Morris came out of a scramble in front of the UCSB box to one-time past McNeely and stun the crowd.
Stanford, riding the momentum of its five-match winning streak, opens Pac-12 play next Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. against No. 5 Washington at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
“[The streak] is a great confidence builder, just showing our guys what we’re capable of,” Gunn noted. “Going into the Pac-12 now it’s ‘fasten your seatbelt’ time because it’s going to be an incredible conference season. We’re going to have to be ready for incredible games every single time. The level of competition in our conference is outstanding.”