All photos by Eric Guzman
It was an enthralling match in the NCAA College Cup final at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on Sunday afternoon. In the end it required penalties with Stanford winning 5-4 in the shootout after a scoreless draw against Wake Forest.
Andrew Epstein was the hero of the shootout, making two saves, earning defensive player of the tournament honors, to win the title for Stanford for the second year in a row.
“In a shootout I just always think of the next play, and going in to the fifth shot I felt confident.” Said Epstein after the match. “When he came up I saw something in his run up and thought I could get to it and I did and after that I was feeling really confident. On the fifth he was a little tighter so that was going to make it harder to hit across his body, so I felt good I could get there.”
Wake Forest head coach Brad Muus was disappointed after the match “I had confidence in the guys we had going up there, but it just didn’t work out.”
“It was a cracking final”, said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn “Wake Forest played very well… Not too much more to say I’m pretty tired.”
Wake Forest had a strong shout for a penalty in the 20th minute when Jacori Hayes ran through on goal but was taken down from behind. The referee ran over to the spot but called play on arguing that the challenge was all ball.
Their head coach Brad Muus was frustrated after the match with the officiating, “There were 40 fouls but only three yellow cards, I think these players, we (all four teams) deserve more respect.”, he said while also not holding back about the pitch “I wouldn’t call it soccer. What happened this weekend (with the pitch) is a catastrophe for our game. It didn’t lose or win the game for us, it just made for a sloppy final four, which is supposed to be the pinnacle of college soccer… it played a small bit in to it.”
Only one minute later Stanford went agonizingly close to finding a goal after a set-piece allowed Foster Langsdorf to step up. Langsdorf hit it with power, with Andreu Mundet scrambling but he hit his effort well wide of goal, letting Wake Forest off the hook.
Wake Forest senior midfielder Ian Harkes very nearly put the Deacons in front with two minutes to play in the first half. He was able to get through on the right side of the box, but was denied as Stanford junior goalkeeper, Andrew Epstein made a great save at full stretch to keep it scoreless at half-time.
Harkes was named the offensive player of the tournament “I didn’t think I had a great game today, but I was pleased to contribute. It was a tough result with the PKs.”
Hayes could have opened the scoring for Wake Forest as he made a 30 yard run from midfield to the edge of the box and took a shot. That shot was too close to the keeper, allowing Epstein to make the save.
Moments later Hayes turned provider as he was able to cut the ball back to Ian Harkes who was making a strong run. Harkes ran on to the ball and shot but could only send it high and wide of goal, before he got on to a corner in the 64th minute, again heading it just over the bar.
Stanford thought they’d scored with 19 minutes to play when junior midfielder Drew Skundrich tried to bundle the ball home after a goal mouth scramble. The ball was saved by Wake Forest freshman goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet. He fell back, and towards the line, which led to the play being reviewed, in the NCAA soccer review system, but the replays couldn’t prove the ball crossed the line, keeping the original decision the correct one.
“I don’t think they had a good angle on the replay” said Stanford head coach Gunn. “But I’m all for it, anything that came make the job easier for referees who have a very difficult job.”
Wake Forest’s defense continued to ride their luck as they cleared the ball off the line in the 78th minute. A cross came in to Stanford sophomore forward Amir Bashti whose header beat the keeper but was cleared off the line perfectly by Wake Forest sophomore defender Sam Raben.
No side could break through and for the third time in the tournament the match went to extra time, the first time every match went to the extra 20 minutes since 2009, and just the second time in history.
A corner from Wake Forest junior midfielder Luis Argudo nearly resulted in the winner in the first half of extra-time. Argudo’s corner found junior defender Kevin Politz who saw his shot blocked and cleared away by Stanford to send the match to a second extra time period.
Wake Forest were forced to work hard in the second half of extra time, having to clear the ball off the line after a goal mouth scramble. Stanford senior forward Adrian Alabi was able to get a shot away which was parried away by Mundet and then cleared to keep the match scoreless and send the match to the shootout.