Nov. 16, 2012
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STANFORD, Calif. - The match was all it was expected: Tough and physical against a rival in the NCAA tournament, with some rain adding to the grittiness of it all.
No. 1 Stanford’s 2-1 victory over No. 17 Santa Clara on Friday was all those things. But the lasting memory after the bruises healed were Courtney Verloo’s two second-half goals that allowed the Cardinal to swoop into the Sweet 16.
Stanford (19-1-1) advances to a third-round match on Sunday at 1 p.m. against surprising Denver (17-2-4), which got three unanswered goals from Nicholette Digiacomo to rally from two goals down and beat No. 9 Maryland, 3-2, in overtime to open the Cagan Stadium doubleheader.
For Stanford, “There was so much emotion in the game, we never really settled in and played like I wanted us to play,” coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “This will harden us to what we can expect to see the rest of the way.”
Verloo scored in the 51st and 60th minutes, first after Chioma Ubogagu cut the ball back from the end line into Verloo’s path. Verloo’s shot in traffic went through the legs of a defender and was similar in creation to her winner at California in the regular-season finale.
“I give a ton of credit for that goal to her,” Verloo said. “She had the guts to split her two defenders, taken an end line and play a great ball back to me. It was an easy finish because of her hard work.”
Verloo’s next goal came on a solo run and a blast off the bottom of the crossbar. She said she questioned whether the ball would indeed go in, until she saw it deflect into to the net.
“That was a heck of a second goal,” Santa Clara coach Jerry Smith said. “It’s something you can’t defend – a shot from 25 yards out that hits the underside of the bar with a lot of pace on it. Nobody’s going to save that shot.”
The goals were her team-leading ninth and 10th of the season.
Santa Clara (12-4-6) cut the deficit when Dani Weatherholt took a cross from Lauren Matheson and headed the ball inside the near post in the 77th minute.
There were some scary moments for the Cardinal, but then again, Emily Oliver was in goal. Most of the Santa Clara shots that made Stanford fans cringe were halted by the Cardinal’s simply spectacular junior. On one long-range rocket, Oliver seemed to hang in the air, with full extension, until she batted the ball away with her outstretched right hand.
In a match that finished with five yellow cards, including three for Stanford, the Cardinal still extended its winning streak against Santa Clara to nine. Stanford also eliminated Santa Clara from the tournament for the third time in four years.
“We expect every game to be like that from this point, and we always expect it from Santa Clara,” Verloo said. “It’s always a great game and a physical game on both sides. That’s just the nature of this rivalry. I feel like this win prepares us well for the rest of the tournament.”
The victory was the eighth consecutive in the series for Stanford and extended the Cardinal’s home unbeaten streak to 65 (63-0-2). The result also extended Stanford’s home unbeaten streak when scoring a goal to 100 (96-0-4).
Senior central defender and team captain Alina Garciamendez broke a Stanford record for career starts, with her 99th, breaking a tie with Lindsay Taylor (2008-11). She has started every match since her freshman season.
Tickets for Sunday’s match are on sale on gostanford.com. The Cagan Stadium ticket office will open at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and the gates open at noon.
With only 16 teams remaining, it’s a good time to take stock.
Among the schools eliminated Friday were 2011 semifinalist Wake Forest, and West Coast power Portland. But, for the most part, the favorites continued to advance.
If Stanford can get past Denver, which has never advanced as far before, the Cardinal would play either No. 4 San Diego State or No. 6 UCLA for the right to advance to the College Cup.
Santa Clara did not win, but helped convince Stanford that nothing is given, not even for the defending national champions.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics