Three years of falling short in the College Cup was enough for Stanford women’s soccer’s four seniors. On Dec. 4, the Cardinal finally claimed its first championship with a 1-0 victory over Duke on a 53rd minute header from senior Teresa Noyola.
“The first thing that went through my head was obviously joy and excitement, but then right away it was like, ‘ok, back to business. Let’s finish this off,’” she said.
Finish it, they did. Now over a week later, the feeling of being a national champion has finally set-in for Noyola. She is a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, given to the country’s top player each year. Teammate Lindsay Taylor and Penn State sophomore Maya Hayes are also up for the award.
But life continues to move along for the clutch midfielder who finally brought Stanford (25-0-1) to the promised land.
After all, its finals week at Stanford.
As soon as those end, Noyola is off to training camp with the Mexican national team as it prepares for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, which begins in Vancouver on Jan. 19. Unlike World Cup qualifying where the third place finisher went to a playoff with a European team (where the U.S. beat Italy in 2010), CONCACAF has only two spots in the 12 team Olympic tournament.
That makes the stakes even higher for Mexico, which is still seen as an underdog to the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s obviously going to be a huge challenge and there are only two teams that go through,” said Noyola, who played 16 minutes for Mexico in the 2011 World Cup. “We know how strong the U.S. and Canada and Costa Rica (are). I think we can do it and I think the team is very motivated to do it because going to the Olympics would just be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Beyond that, of course, is the prospect of playing professionally. Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe calls Noyola “one of the best playmakers in the country.” Noyola said she would like to play in WPS, assuming it exists. As of Monday, the league’s future still hangs in the balance as U.S. Soccer decides whether or not to sanction WPS for 2012.
Ratcliffe said all four seniors – Kristy Zurmuhlen, Camille Levin, Taylor and Noyola – are all capable of playing in WPS.
“All four players could definitely play at the next level,” he said. “They were an integral part of this team and huge difference-makers for us.
“You have four great players that I hope there are options for them playing and I hope that WPS survives and that we can keep that league growing, because women’s soccer is only growing.
“They love soccer as much as I do and they’ll keep playing. The main thing is, will they have opportunities to play in a major league or are they just going to be playing on a Sunday afternoon? My hope is that they can be playing on TV in a major league.”
The decision as to whether or not WPS is a viable league does not lie in the hands of Ratcliffe, Noyola or anyone at Stanford. For now, they are just enjoying this season’s run.
“I always thought that this team could do it and it’s just great to get recognition for all the work we’ve done,” Noyola said.
There is already an eye on 2012, of course. Noyola is confident that can happen, even if she won’t be around for it.
“I think there are also great leaders who are going to emerge in the upcoming seniors as well as the juniors,” she said. “It’s going to be, again, a team effort.”
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