In a rematch of last year’s championship game, Stanford exacted revenge on the Trojans, coming away with a narrow 9-8 win over the defending champions.
As time expired, a blast from USC’s junior utility Maud Megens ricocheted off the post; the narrow miss sealed Stanford’s seventh NCAA championship victory.
Sunday’s title match was a close contest from the start. Each time one team netted a goal, the other had an answer. The largest lead of the game was of just 2 goals, held by the Trojans in the third quarter. However, Stanford tied it up at 8 to head into the final frame.
The Trojans entered the fourth quarter without sophomore driver Paige Hauschild, who fouled out on an exclusion penalty at the end of the third. As Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament MVP and the team’s second-leading scorer of the regular season, Hauschild was an important asset for the Trojans against stiff competition this season.
“Of course [we had] to adjust,” interim head coach Casey Moon said of Hauschild’s ejection. “[Hauschild] is probably one of the best players in the country, she’s going to be an Olympian one day, and she’s the focal point of our team, our offense and our defense. You have to learn to adjust and we did. We fought until the end and we were right there.”
The Cardinal scored the winning goal with just under five minutes left on the clock. From there, both teams cracked down defensively. USC’s senior goalie Amanda Longan had two saves in the final minute, giving the Trojans one last breath. However, the Trojan offense could not find the back of the net as Stanford held on to the 9-8 lead.
Despite the championship loss, the youthful Trojan squad demonstrated its promising talent and resiliency during both the NCAA tournament and season. This was the program’s first trip to the NCAA tournament without former head coach Jovan Vavic, who was terminated during the regular season due to his alleged involvement in the admissions bribery scheme.
“We’ve gone through a lot of adversity this season, not expected and not exciting, but we’ve done an amazing job overcoming that,” junior driver Kelsey McIntosh said. “A lot of people probably thought it was going to ruin our season and we were going to go downhill, but I’m so proud of how we overcame that and got so much closer, had so much more fight in us.”
Despite Vavic’s departure, the Trojans compiled a 23-1 regular season record, earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and ended as runners-up.
“I was gifted an incredible team,” Moon said. “These girls, I tell you, can coach themselves. I say that I have the fun job because I get to call the plays. But these girls play themselves, coach themselves, and it’s a testament to their character, their discipline, and their hard work.”
In the team’s 10-8 overtime win in the semifinal match against Cal, all five freshmen punched in at least 1 goal for the Trojans. The contributions of these young players are promising for a team with the same goal year after year: to win the national championship.
“Our girls are truly, truly special, so resilient, and they truly fight until the end,” Moon said. “I’m so proud of that. I’m so proud to be called ‘head coach’ for the team that I was gifted.”