Even Drew Hutchins sounded in disbelief over the circumstances of Thursday night's NCAA Tournament first-round contest, in which Stanford and Loyola Marymount played to a 1-1 draw over 110 minutes before the Cardinal advanced on penalties, 3-2.
The final save advanced the Cardinal (9-6-4) to Sunday's second round, where Hutchins and fellow seniors JJ Koval and Ty Conklin, along with the rest of the squad have earned another match, visiting 15th-seeded Cal State Northridge at 7 p.m.
"I'm going into every game with that thought of it could be my last game, which is great motivation," Hutchins said after Thursday's match. "After we got that goal there was belief in the team that there was no way we were losing this one."
"Tonight we played fantastic. We could've, should've, would've been up in the game, and suddenly we're behind I didn't think we deserved to be," said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. "In a knockout game like that you can feel sorry for yourself and give up or you can keep going, and the boys kept going."
The Cardiac Cardinal could've been given up for dead twice Thursday night, but fought its way back on each occasion. First it was LMU taking a shock 1-0 lead against the run of play in the 83rd minute when leading scorer Adrien Perez curled a left-footed blast inside the post. Working against a short clock, the Cardinal looked to be headed to a disappointing finish until the 90th minute, when at the death Jimmy Callinan's throw-in was nodded by Hutchins, who had come forward with the attack, right into the path of Zach Batteer who lashed home to the near post to breathe new life into Stanford with 17 seconds remaining.
"Bobby made a great throw, I flicked it on and Zach, he had no right finishing that ball, it was a great finish. It was no tap-in. That was awesome," Hutchins said.
After 20 scoreless minutes of extra time, Stanford opened the penalty shootout with JJ Koval and Aaron Kovar each being stopped by Lions keeper Paul Blanchette, a Gunn High graduate. The Lions had a chance to go up 2-0 but Ryan Felix went wide left with his attempt. Brandon Vincent opened the third round with a conversion and Perez stepped up and drilled into the post, bring the Cardinal even at 1-1 after three rounds.
Jordan Morris and Juan De Rada each converted in the fourth round, and Hutchins stepped out from the goal line to take the Cardinal's final penalty. The keeper converted with no issue, and with the adrenaline surging, went left on Connor Hunsicker's attempt and guessed correctly, making a two-handed save to set off the celebration.
"Drew's one of many tremendous young men," said Cardinal head coach Jeremy Gunn. "Last year we needed coverage at center back and we played him a few games at center back and he did great. He's just one of those special people. And to win the flick-on and create the tying goal, he even almost had another assist. He was great on the penalties, a big presence and we actually didn't tell him until tonight that he was in the first five."
It was a just result for a Cardinal team that had thoroughly controlled Thursday's match, outshooting the Lions 20-9 and forcing eight saves out of Blanchette. Stanford was unlucky not to be up even one goal after the opening 45 minutes in which it peppered the Lion defense with 11 shots while allowing just two, with neither coming on frame.
Koval had a fine chance saved by Blanchette off of a Kovar cross, and five minutes later had another point-blank attempt blocked by the keeper. Batteer and forced Blanchette to go horizontal in tipping his shot just over the bar in the 19th minute, and Bobby Edwards missed a good chance when he blazed a one-timer over the bar at the half-hour mark.
The assault continued into the second half until Perez stunned the Cardinal with his blast. But when Hutchins was called into action after the goal, he answered. The Cardinal goalkeeper was a wall the rest of the way, making two outstanding saves in the second overtime period to preserve the stalemate. He also nearly earned his second assist of the match in the 96th minute, quickly punting a long ball to a streaking Batteer, who's one-on-one chance was saved by Blanchette.
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