The Stanford Cardinal’s third consecutive attempt at capturing their first NCAA women’s soccer championship was successful. After losing to perennial women’s soccer champion North Carolina in 2009 and to Notre Dame in 2010 by 1-0 scores, Stanford defeated the tough, top-ranked Duke Blue Devils to win the 2011 title also by 1-0.
No one was expecting an offensive shootout to decide this title. In championship games between evenly matched teams defense is always key. It was business as usual for the Cardinal, a team that only gave up seven goals in compiling a 19-0-1 regular season record. Duke had a problem dealing with three highly motivated Stanford seniors, Lindsay Taylor, Camille Levin and Teresa Noyola and a freshman, Chioma Ubogagu, who played like an upperclassman. Duke kept the immensely creative Ubogagu, in check by shadowing her with Alex Straton. When Ubogagu did break containment there were others to fill passing lanes, tackle and disrupt the Cardinal attack. Still, Stanford appeared to have the territorial and possession advantage even though the first period was scoreless.
In the second period the three seniors and freshman combined for an irresistible effort in the 53rd minute. Camille Levin passed to Lindsay Taylor who sent the ball to Ubogagu who hit the open Levin. Duke responded by tackling Levin who retained possession only to have her cross blocked and both defender and attacker went down. Levin got up first and delivered a ball to Noyola who headed the ball in at the far post.
After the Stanford goal Duke gradually stepped up their attack and took the territorial and possession advantage. There were scoring opportunities for the Blue Devils but the Cardinal defense was up to the task. Even when Stanford goalkeeper, Emily Oliver, left the net, leaped but failed to catch the ball and ended up on the ground, the Cardinal defense did not break.
This was a unique first time championship. More than one game it was a study in resilience, tenacity and consistent excellence over three seasons.
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