It was a long walk up to take her penalty kick and Stanford junior Kiki Pickett had plenty of time to think about where she wanted to place the ball. She made her decision before stepping up to kick and nailed it.
"I knew I was going to put it there," said Pickett.
Pickett gave the Cardinal women’s soccer team its third national title and second in three years. It was the first time Stanford (24-1) beat North Carolina (24-2-1), who has won 21 NCAA titles in 26 championship appearances, in a national title match.
Stanford has beaten the Tar Heels in each of their past three meetings and North Carolina still owns a 9-3-3 series lead.
It came down to penalty kicks after 110 minutes of entertaining soccer in front of 9,591 fans at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, in which neither team could put the ball into the net, though both sides had plenty of opportunities.
“It was a great battle on the field and you need a little bit of luck for PKs,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “It was a tough game emotionally and the momentum changed play to play.”
Pickett, Sophia Smith (the tournament's Most Outstanding Player), Naomi Girma, Madison Haley, Catarina Macario and Katie Meyer were all named to the all-tournament team.
“We knew going into this game and really the College Cup overall, it would come down to the mentality of who wanted it more,” said Girma, who attended Pioneer High in San Jose. “That would be the team that wins. We just knew we had to be the team that wanted it more.”
Meyer stopped the first penalty kick she faced and then teams traded goals until Stanford missed one. Freshman Kennedy Wesley made her shot to keep it tied before Meyer stopped another shot and Pickett drove in the game winner.
“Our fate was already decided from all the work we put in, all the extra work we did,” Meyer said. “Even as we weren’t scoring, we weren’t worried either. The fact it came down to penalty kicks showed what a great defensive team this is.”
Stanford had a pair of solid attempts in the second overtime, with Carly Malatskey forcing Claudia Dickey to make a good save and Smith hitting the cross bar.
“It’s surreal,” Smith said. “It doesn’t get any better than this. We had an amazing amount of fans supporting us.”
Smith, who made one of the penalty kicks along with Macario and Girma, said the team trusted in Pickett to finish the game.
“We all crossed our fingers and said a prayer that it would get to the back of the net,” she said. “We all trusted her to do that.”
Macario, the nation’s leading scorer, became more involved on the attack in the second half, creating several nice shots.
Smith made a couple of nice runs to create chances for Stanford and had the only two shots on goal in the first half.
The Cardinal was held scoreless in the first half for the third time this season and scoreless after regulation for the second time.
Stanford outshot UNC, 21-12. It was just the second time this season that North Carolina’s opponent posted more shots. The Cardinal also had a 14-3 advantage in corner kicks.
Haley, Smith, Girma and Pickett are all headed to Florida for national team training.