Melissa Henderson may have been continuously denied by the crossbar and Stanford goalkeeper Emily Oliver, but it did not matter. Henderson set up freshman Adriana Leon for the game-winning goal in the 63rd minute to give the Notre Dame Fighting Irish its third women’s soccer national championship 1-0 over Stanford.
Notre Dame was denied be the woodwork in the 22nd minute thanks in part to an incredible save by Oliver. Rose Augustin made a surging run up the right flank for the Irish and played a perfect ball into the path of the on-rushing Henderson. She beat Stanford defender Rachel Quon to the ball and headed it toward the upper corner, but Oliver got a finger tip to it and pushed the ball into the crossbar and over the touch line for a corner kick.
Just prior, Stanford had hit the post as well. Notre Dame had the better of play in the opening 10 minutes, but Stanford withheld the pressure and produced the first legitimate scoring opportunity of the game when defender Courtney Verloo made a long run forward and smacked a shot off the post. A minute later, Christen Press put her shot just over the crossbar and Stanford’s confidence began to grow.
Each team’s superstar – Press for Stanford and Henderson for Notre Dame – had her chances, but both defenses were able to keep clean sheets in a first half that gave the Irish confidence.
Henderson continued to get good looks in the second half, shooting wide from 12-yards out in the 50th minute and forcing another great save from Oliver in the 57th minute. Just one minute after Notre Dame goalkeeper Nikki Weiss made an incredible point-blank save on Alina Garciamendez.
Stanford struggled to produce many quality opportunities in the second half and Oliver kept the Cardinal in the game. She denied Leon from scoring a second goal with incredible tip-saves in the 85th and 88th minutes, but Stanford could not find an equalizer to accompany those saves.
Notre Dame became the first team in women’s NCAA tournament history to beat four seeded teams en-route to a championship, the most memorable of which was a 4-1 third round victory over defending champion North Carolina.
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