Nov. 28, 2009

Sidebar: O'Hara And Press Lead Stanford Soccer

By Jake Curtis
Special to

Palo Alto, Calif., -- Stanford's two star players led the No. 1-ranked Cardinal women's soccer team into the national semifinals for the second straight year on Friday night by providing most of the offense in Stanford's 3-1 victory over Boston College in the NCAA quarterfinals at Stanford.

Stanford remained undefeated at 24-0, but had to come from behind after the Eagles scored less than two minutes into the game.

Stanford's Kelley O'Hara, the Pac-10 player of the year, responded quickly by scoring the game-tying goal less than a minute later, then scored the go-ahead midway through the first half. Chirsten Press, who had assisted on both of O'Hara's goals, scored the clinching goal late in the second half.

It was a dominating performance by the Cardinal, who outshot Boston College 30-5, including 15-5 in shots on goal.

"I thought this was our best performance of the tournament so far," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said.

Stanford advanced to the College Cup, the name given to the NCAA soccer tournament semifinals and finals, to be played Dec. 4 and 6 at College Station, Texas. Last season Stanford lost in the semifinals to Notre Dame. This year, Stanford's semifinal opponent will be the winner of Saturday's quarterfinal game between UCLA and Portland.

Boston College (18-4-2) gave the Cardinal an early scare when the Eagles scored just 1:45 into the game, stunning the capacity crowd of 2,200 at Stanford. Victoria DiMartino fed Julia Bouchelle, who turned, beat one defender and blasted a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that hit the inside of the right post and bounded into the net.

"I wanted to test the goalkeeper early, and I did," said Bouchelle, who recorded her fifth goal of the season. "After the goal we had a lot of energy. I think we kind of surprised ourselves."

It was the first goal Stanford had allowed in the postseason.

"That goal kind of came out of nowhere," Press said, "but the way we played right after that gave me positive thoughts."

Just 40 seconds after the Boston College goal, Press delivered a cross from the right side that found O'Hara, who was waiting near the far post. O'Hara beat the goalkeeper from close range to tie the score at 1-1. It was O'Hara's 25th goal of the season, tops in the country.

"We probably made for a really exciting first three minutes," Boston College coach Alison Kulik said.

Stanford dominated play from that point, and O'Hara broke the tie by scoring with 26:10 gone in the first half. The play started when Lindsay Taylor won possession and passed to Press, who flicked a perfect pass over a defender and ahead to O'Hara. The Cardinal senior then delivered a shot from about 15 yards out, placing it into the upper right corner of the net for a 2-1 Cardinal lead.

Boston College had only a few chances to score after that as Stanford's defense held firm.

"Our defense held them to five shots," O'Hara said. "Our defenders and midfielders and everyone played their parts."

Press ended any chance for Boston College when she made a nice run from midfield and hit the back of the net from 12 yards out with 5:32 left in the game for her 20th goal of the season.

"Stanford is undefeated and ranked No. 1, and they're certainly deserving of their status," Kulik said. "One of our goals was to get where we haven't gone before, and we did that."

This was the first time Boston College had reached the quarterfinals since the NCAA tournament was expanded to 64 teams. The Eagles also got to the final eight in 1985, when only 14 teams were involved in the postseason.

All the Eagles' losses this season came against teams seeded No. 1 in their regions of the NCAA tournament, including two losses to North Carolina and one each to Florida State and Stanford.

The Cardinal has already set a school record for wins in a season and needs one more win to improve on last year's postseason showing and get to the title game for the first time ever.

"I think it's different this time, because many of our players had experience there last year," O'Hara said.