With penalties feeling like an inevitably between the two stingiest defenses in the nation, a giveaway in the back led to a quick strike from Sam Werner that sealed a third straight national championship for Stanford at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“I honestly need to watch the tape,” Werner, a redshirt junior from Bozeman, Mont., told the media after the match. “I'm not really sure what happened but I think Corey (Baird) sent the ball across the box and they cut it out and my first instinct was just step and see if I could get a knick on the ball and knicked it and then I think it just bounced in front of me from and the shot slipped under the crossbar.”
The goal-scoring play was one of the few clear-cut chances in a match that was played pretty evenly from the opening whistle. It started with a throw-in for the Cardinal deep in the final third and after Werner dispossessed Griffin Dorsey and fired a shot to beat sensational freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse it set off a familiar scene for a Stanford team that joined Virginia as the only three-peat champions in College Cup history. The Cavaliers won four championships in a row from 1991-1994 with Bruce Arena as head coach.
Werner’s goal was just the seventh conceded on the season for Indiana in 25 matches while the loss ended the Hoosiers bid to become the first unbeaten champion since Santa Clara shared the title with Virginia in 1989.
“That's a tough one,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said in the post-game press conference. “We said, heading into the end of the overtime, make sure we would play really safe in moments of numerous safety decisions and, obviously, Griff thought he had a little window there to make a play and yet, again, their re-press is great and they were able to make a play and the kid finished it really well.”
In addition to securing their dynasty status in men’s soccer, Stanford also became the first Division 1 school to lift both the men’s and women’s College Cup trophies in the same season.
“The journey’s been amazing you know with great people,” Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “You know in this type of job we spend so much of our lives with people. You get to see the outcomes at the end of a game. And we've been fortunate enough through our hard work to be celebrating and standing at the end of the season three times.”
Sunday’s game was the last for seven seniors on Stanford’s roster, including four players who have been integral to all three championships in defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce, midfielders Corey Baird and Drew Skundrich and forward Foster Langsdorf.
Hilliard-Arce is projected to be one of the top picks in January’s MLS SuperDraft.
“I think kind of walking back into the locker room, it starts to sink in that you're no longer part of this program,” Hilliard-Arce said. “I remember just a few minutes after we had won, I just started weeping because I look around at so many people that have taken care of me and so many people who I love and who love me. Just knowing that I'm on to the next chapter in my life. It's very exciting but at the same time leaving something that was so dear to me is going to be tough.”