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STANFORD, Calif. - How she got so far forward, Alina Garciamendez doesn't even know. But the senior central defender was in the right place at the right time to provide the late winner in Stanford's 1-0 victory over Boston University on Friday night.
With Stanford pushing forward in the closing minutes of a scoreless draw, Garciamendez broke the deadlock in the 89th minute by straying far from her normal area of deployment.
"Honestly, I don't know how I ended up there," said Garciamendez, a senior captain and four-year starter in central defense. "I just started pressing. My defender started marking me further up, so that gave me leeway to go up. And the ball just dropped at my foot."
Garciamendez had scored three career goals with her head, but never with her feet, which she did before 1,352 at Laird Q. Cagan on the opening night of the 18th annual Stanford Nike Invitational.
And just in time. Stanford had begun assaulting the goal not long after senior outside back Rachel Quon moved into the midfield, and then crept up to forward for perhaps the first time in her collegiate career.
With Quon acting as the aggressor and knifing toward the goal at will, the Boston defense lost just enough of its footing for cracks to open. Haley Rosen got through to unleash a hard shot that goalkeeper Andrea Green saved with a dive to her left with five minutes remaining.
The surges continued for Stanford, but without anything to show for it until Garciamendez seized the moment.
"It was the last five minutes of the game," Garciamendez said. "We needed a goal. We didn't want to go into overtime."
She took a pass from Hannah Farr, moved forward with a quick touch, and fired a 20-yard shot that skipped inside the right post.
"I just told myself, `Don't fly it. Don't hit it over the goal, just hit it on the ground.'" She said. "I was trying just trying to get it on frame. Shoot it as hard as I could on frame, because this far out, I don't think I could place it. It wouldn't be hard enough.
"So, I put my head down and struck the ball as hard as I could."
Stanford needed a victory. Until last week, the Cardinal had not gone two matches without a victory since 2007. And it nearly was three. That was something Stanford was fortunate to avoid - its' first three-match winless streak since 2006.
Instead, Stanford (3-1-1) extended its home unbeaten streak to 57 while outshooting the Terriers (3-3-1), by a count of 26-6.
The match came on the first day of the four-team event that began with Santa Clara's 1-1 draw against Georgetown.
Stanford resumes play in the tournament on Sunday with a noon home match against No. 23 Georgetown. Santa Clara plays host to Boston University at Buck Shaw Stadium at 1 p.m.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics