Sports

Stanford men Philly-bound for another try at a soccer title

 
Corey Baird had a shot slam off the crossbar. Photo by Jim Shorin/isiphotos.com.

For the third consecutive year, the Stanford men's soccer team has eliminated Wake Forest from the NCAA tournament. No. 9 Stanford would love see history repeat itself the rest of the way. The Cardinal went on to win the national title the past two years.

Tomas Hilliard-Arce and Sam Werner each scored in Stanford's 2-0 victory over host and top-seeded Wake Forest on Saturday night. The Cardinal earned a trip to the Men's College Cup as a result.


Charlie Wehan/Jim Shorin
The ninth-seeded Cardinal (17-2-2) will head to Philadelphia and meet No. 5 seed Akron (18-3-2) on Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium. In what will be the program's sixth trip to the College Cup, Stanford will attempt to become the first back-to-back-to-back national champion in nearly a quarter century.

"It boiled down to the fact that we created so many good chances and had a complete game," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said. "Our team was fantastic. Wake did carve out some opportunities, but on the night we had more chances, better chances and we executed on those chances. Defensively we were rock solid at the back, kept the ball different spells and defended well when they had good possession."

Stanford put a potent Wake Forest (19-2-2) attack on the back foot from the outset and nearly grabbed the first goal in the 27th minute when Corey Baird lofted a chip that slammed the crossbar. The ball ricocheted to the feet of Foster Langsdorf, who had his shot blocked off the line by the Demon Deacons' Michael DeShields.

Ten minutes later it was a couple of underclassmen that set up the opportunity for Stanford's first score. Sophomore Derek Waldeck controlled and raced down the edge of the box to the endline. He shifted a pass across the face of goal in the direction of a charging freshman Charlie Wehan. A desperate slide from Wake defender Mark McKenzie thwarted the attempt, but sent the ball out of play and awarded the Cardinal the game's first corner. Stanford took advantage.

Jared Gilbey stood on the ball, lofted his service into the box and Hilliard-Arce headed home his fourth of the season to put the Cardinal up 1-0.

"Before the game we talked about maybe being able to exploit them a little bit on set pieces knowing they weren't as big or tall as the (Coastal Carolina) team we played last week," Hilliard-Arce said. "Our game plan was to put it in the box and following the flight of the ball I was able to get on the end of it."

Werner's persistence paid off and he added some insurance early in the second half. In a two-minute stretch he put three shots on goal and Wake's Andreu Cases Mundet was able to stop the first two, but not the third.

In the 53rd minute, Stanford switched the ball from left to right and cycled it across the top of the 18 from Bryce Marion to Langsdorf to Werner. Werner's first shot was saved, but the winger was right there to hammer in his own rebound and increase the Cardinal's lead.

Wake's best chance to score came two minutes into the second half when Ema Twumasi went for the upper-90, but Nico Cortidove high to his left to tip it over the crossbar. In a frenetic finish, the Demon Deacons fired off five shots in a three-minute span around the 75th minute, but Corti saved two, two were blocked by Stanford defenders and one sailed over the goal.

Wake Forest, which entered the night second in the nation in scoring offense (2.64), was held without a goal for the third time this season. The clean sheet extended Stanford's NCAA-record streak of postseason shutouts to 10 and 1,022:17 of match time.

Stanford beat another No. 1 seeded Demon Deacons squad in Winston-Salem in the 2015 quarterfinals, 2-1 in overtime, and won its second straight national title by beating Wake Forest in penalties, 5-4, in last December's College Cup Final after a scoreless 110 minutes.

The Cardinal will face Akron in a national semifinal for the second time in three years. After playing to a scoreless draw in Kansas City in 2015, Stanford beat the Zips, 8-7, on penalties. In the 10th round, Corey Baird led off by converting what was ultimately the decisive kick before Andrew Epstein saved Akron's last attempt.

Stanford, one of six programs to win back-to-back national championships, is attempting to become just the second program to win three straight NCAA titles (Virginia 1991-94).

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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