STANFORD, Calif.- Over the last seven years, Stanford victories over California have been hard to come by.
Now they're coming with greater regularity, and lately they have been of the championship variety.
Sophomore Camille Gandhi tapped in the game-winning goal in the 94th minute of double-overtime, lifting Stanford to an improbable 2-1 victory over No. 16 California in the NorPac Tournament championship game on Saturday afternoon in Farmville, Va.
Trailing 1-0 with only four minutes remaining in regulation, sophomore Xanthe Travlos forced overtime when she converted on Stanford's first successful penalty stroke attempt in three years.
Now, for the second straight season, Stanford (9-10) has been crowned NorPac Tournament champions after defeating California (13-5) in the title match. Last year, the Cardinal defeated the Golden Bears 3-1 to claim its first NorPac Tournament title since 2000.
Prior to last year's victory over California in the conference tournament final, Stanford had dropped 18 straight in the series- a stretch that dated back to a 1-0 Cardinal shutout on Oct. 6, 2001. Stanford had come close to snapping the streak on several occasions, as 12 of those 18 losses were decided by one goal and five occurred in overtime.
But that trend is quickly getting reversed. Stanford has won three of the last four meetings against California, and Saturday's loss might have been the most damaging yet considering the Golden Bears entered the afternoon as a fixture in the national rankings and were looking to extend their best season in school history.
Instead, Stanford claims the conference hardware once again and earns a berth in next Tuesday's NCAA play-in game at No. 11 Princeton (14-2, Ivy League champion). The winner of that contest qualifies for the 16-school NCAA Tournament field.
"I am so proud of this team," said head coach Lesley Irvine. "To go out and defend a conference championship is not easy, particularly after beating California just last weekend in another very close game. We have had some tough breaks this season in several games but today things fell in our favor. The team showed tremendous willpower to play three game in three days, let alone double-overtime today. Our defensive unit played an unbelievable game today and on the offensive end, we converted on the opportunities we created. We are excited to move on and play Princeton on Tuesday."
It's the same formula Stanford used during its memorable postseason run ast year. The Cardinal captured the conference tournament championship, blanked Lock Haven 1-0 in an NCAA play-in and then drew top-seeded North Carolina in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000.
However for most of Saturday, it looked as if California was ticketed for the postseason.
That's because the Golden Bears simply dominated the contest, owning commanding advantages in shot attempts (29-9) and penalty corners (9-5). Ashley Glosz fired off a game-high 10 shots and four different Golden Bears registered at least three shots apiece.
Stanford's answer: redshirt freshman goalkeeper Alessandra Moss, who turned in an unbelievable performance in which she matched a career-best with 13 saves. After a pair of average efforts in her first two NorPac Tournament games, Moss was spectacular in the cage on Saturday and displayed the type of form that earned her all-conference honors as a rookie.
After a scoreless first period, California's offensive pressure paid off with a Kellie York goal at the 42:19 mark. Following a penalty corner, Carolina Bistue hit a sweeping pass to York, who one-timed it into a wide open near post.
The Golden Bears continued to pound away at the cage, holding a 15-5 edge in attempts over the final 35 minutes.
But with just under five minutes to play, Stanford mounted an attack on the left side and earned a penalty corner attempt with 65:54 on the clock. Two Cardinal were shots were saved by California keeper Kelly Knoche, but a third shot hit a Golden Bear defender's foot and Stanford was awarded a penalty stroke.
Travlos then connected for her fifth goal of the year, extending the game and Stanford's season.
California threatened once again in the first overtime period, this time holding a 5-0 shot edge.
Three minutes into the second overtime, the Golden Bears were awarded a penalty stroke and it appeared as if the game would finally come to an end. But Glosz' shot sailed wide and tagged the crossbar, giving Stanford new life and setting up a possible stroke-off.
Then in the 94th minute, Gandhi broke free from the defense and hit a slow shot that was deflected by a California defender's stick and slowly rolled into the empty cage, setting off a celebration similar to last week when Stanford edged California 2-1 in overtime in the regular season finale.
Gandhi recorded five of Stanford's nine shot attempts while Travlos chipped in with three.
The Cardinal was outshot 9-1 over both overtimes combined and the Golden Bears attempted four penalty corners.
Junior Nora Soza was named the NorPac Tournament MVP, while Travlos, Moss and senior Hillary Braun earned spots on the All-Tournament Team.