Head-turning moment well timed
Stanford senior Noyola succeeds by ‘focusing on my role’
KENNESAW, Ga. -- Teresa Noyola had done this before. Not the “this” of being in the women’s College Cup final for a third consecutive year. This “this” was the way the senior midfielder scored Sunday -- the almost improbable header at 52:43 that turned out to be the match’s lone goal that earned Stanford a 1-0 victory and the NCAA Division I championship.
The win erased the agony of back-to-back 1-0 losses in the College Cup title game. And it was only fitting that Noyola -- who assisted on Friday night’s game-winning goal against Florida State -- factored in the game winner in her last game as a collegiate player.
“It was going to be the difference at the end of the day because you don't get that many opportunities at this stage,” Noyola said. “Camille [Levin] played a great ball and that shows how connected we are. I knew exactly what she was going to do.”
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Even if Noyola had no clue how the play happened.
“All I really remember was Cammie kind of scuffling and beat her player, and went down, and beat her player again. And I was kind of lurking in the back post. I like headers for some reason. I know I’m shorter, but I always liked to head the ball. She knew that about me.”
It was totally a déjà vu moment for Duke and Stanford. For Duke, it saw Noyola score the game-tying goal last season as Stanford took a 2-1 win at the Carolina Nike Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C. Then this year, during the regular season against Washington, Noyola took a feed from Levin that Noyola headed in for the winning goal in overtime.
“She curled her run back post as well, very similar [to the goal Sunday] and scored off her head,” Levin said. “T is such an amazing player. She's so skilled. She knows the game so well. It doesn’t shock me she scored with her head. Yes, she’s 5-2, but I’m just not surprised at all.”
Nothing Noyola does should. No surprise that she plays for Stanford; she attended Palo Alto High School just across the street from the Cardinal practice field. No surprise that she is likely to end up an All-American; she earned first team honors twice already. And no surprise she would excel off the field as well; she’s an Academic All-America with a 3.52 cumulative grade-point average, and is the Pac 12’s Scholar Athlete of the Year for women’s soccer.
As accomplished as she is, with so much already accomplished, Noyola still found herself battling anxiety throughout the College Cup.
“Of course it’s going to be nerve-wracking knowing we are back here,” Noyola said. “Having a great opportunity is always nerve-wracking. A good nervous. Like before the game we were all looking at each other. There were no words.
“We just have to put it all out there. We all had the same mutual good nerves, excitement. We always say after Friday games, Sunday starts now. Right after the game Friday everybody was single-mindedly focused for the game because we knew we weren’t satisfied.”
To make sure she did not get too caught up in the moment, Noyola turned inside, making sure she took care of her business.
“It was definitely nerve wracking the whole time,” Noyola said. “It was definitely mentally tough to get through this weekend. I was just focusing on just doing my role, and making sure I controlled the midfield as much as possible. Making sure we were solid in there. It was great that I got an assist and a goal out of it. But I think that came mostly from me focusing on my role.”
Scoring the game-winner didn’t hurt. It was her team’s first goal in three years in the finals and it was a lift for everybody.
“I think it kind of broke that cycle that we had been in,” Noyola said. “I think at halftime we had a different mentality. The past three years in the final four, at halftime we were kind of demoralized. Almost scared. Not understanding why things weren’t falling our way.
“I think this time we realized, ‘Hey, this is what this is all about. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s not going to be ping, ping, ping a hundred percent of the time like we’ve been able to do in [previous] games. It’s about staying in the moment. It’s about keep moving forward.’ That’s what got us through at the end I think.”