No goals, no problem. After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Stanford edged Wake Forest in penalty kicks to capture their second straight College Cup title on Sunday afternoon in Houston.
Junior goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, a Colorado Rapids Academy alumnus, made a pair of saves to seal the Cardinal’s second straight championship and extend the school’s streak of national titles to a remarkable 41 straight years.
It was Epstein’s counterpart, Wake Forest freshman Cases Mundet who came up huge late in regulation with a left-handed save to stop an Adrian Alabi header toward goal off a free kick. Mundet, who spent time in FC Barcelona’s youth system, made five saves in the game filling in for the injured Alec Ferrell, a first-team All-American.
While Stanford came the closest to scoring - so close on one play video assistance had to be used for the first time in a final - the Demon Deacons had its chances too, including a pair of shots from Ian Harkes, an overhead attempt by Jon Bakero and a shot from Jacori Hayes.
Harkes, who scored the overtime winner to beat Denver on Friday after a botched corner kick attempt, was named the most outstanding player of the tournament.
Though the crowd was sparse at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, the 6,315 fans present were largely urging Wake Forest to what would have been their second ever title and first since 2007.
In the end, it came down to scoring from the penalty spot, which Stanford did to perfection to advance past North Carolina in the second semifinal on Friday night.
The Cardinal made all 10 of their kicks - Lancaster County natives Brian Nana-Sinkam and Drew Skundrich among them - and advanced on a missed attempt by Tar Heel defender Alex Comsia. Philadelphia Union Academy alums Jack Skahan and Colton Storm both converted their attempts for the Tar Heels.
A string of 13 straight penalty kicks came to an end when center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce skied his attempt, but back-to-back saves by Epstein on attempts by Harden Partain and Brad Dunwell gave Stanford the 5-4 win on penalties in similar heartbreaking fashion to the MLS Cup final in Toronto on Saturday night, which of course was won by Stanford alumnus Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders.
The scoreless draw through regulation and two overtimes also completed a remarkable run for the Pac-12 champions, which shut out all five of their NCAA Tournament opponents over an astonishing 505 minutes.
After blowing out ACC opponent Clemson 4-0 to win it all last year, the Cardinal became the first team to win a College Cup without scoring a goal in the final two games since UCLA did it in 1990.
Head coach Jeremy Gunn also becomes the seventh coach to win back-to-back NCAA Division 1 titles, joining Bruce Area, Jerry Yeagley, Bob Guelker, Harry Keough, Stephen Negoesco, and Gene Kenney.
Another save from Andrew Epstein! The Stanford Cardinal are the 2016 NCAA Champions! #CollegeCup @StanfordMSoccer pic.twitter.com/86eEwnfWb3— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 11, 2016