Dec. 4, 2009

By Jim McCurdy
Special to

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Stanford and UCLA brought title hopes to this Final Four of Women’s College Soccer at Texas A&M. But the Cardinal and the Bruins also brought marquee players who will forever hold legacies in their programs’ histories.

For UCLA’s Lauren Cheney, one of the country’s best players, the legacy lived into this stinging cold Friday night in the College Cup semifinals. It also ended here.

Cheney scored the Bruins’ only goal in a 2-1 overtime loss to its Pac-10 counterpart. It was Cheney’s 18th goal of the season and 71st of her career. The career total tied Traci Arkenberg (1994-97) for the most goals in Bruins history.

Cheney finished her career with a school-record 173 points, four better than Arkenberg’s 169. The senior from Indianapolis also had a school-best 28 game-winning goals.

She just didn't get one on this day.

“It’s obviously an honor to have broken records at UCLA,” Cheney said. “There have been great players that have come through this program. I hope I leave a mark other than broken records and Final Four appearances. I think everyone on our team is really a special girl.”

Without a doubt, she was special. One of the nation’s leaders in points and goals, Cheney helped UCLA extend its run of College Cup appearances to seven straight, reaching the semifinals in all four years she was on the Westwood campus.

“It’s just been amazing,” Cheney said as she fought back tears. “Every team goes through ups and downs, but I’ve never met a bunch of girls as resilient as this.”

UCLA coach Jillian Ellis talks about leaving legacies and creating memories. Cheney has certainly done her part.

“Off the field and on the field, she’s a class act,” Ellis said of her senior striker. “I know she’s going to have a tremendous future. She’s already done a lot at a young age. I will miss her incredibly off the field as well as on the field.”

Stanford had a pair of exceptional strikers in junior forward Christen Press and senior forward Kelley O'Hara. Both found the back of the net, and they teamed up on the game's first goal.

“It was fitting that two of the best players scored tonight,” Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “They have great chemistry, and they’re both potent attackers.”

O’Hara, one of 24 players invited to the U.S. National Team training camp this week in Carson, Calif., notched her nation-leading 26th goal of the season when she buried the match's first goal in the 64th minute.

O’Hara, on several watch lists and finalist lists for player of the year honors, increased her point total to a school-record 65 this year. She has 57 goals in her career, which ranks second in school history behind Sarah Rafanelli’s 59 in 1993. O’Hara has 146 career points, six behind Rafanelli.

Press, who assisted on O’Hara’s goal, banged home the winner in overtime to record her 21st of the season. Her three points Friday increased her season total to 58. With another year ahead, Press ranks sixth in career points and goals among Stanford greats -- a list that includes Olympian Julie Foudy (137 points and 52 goals) -- with 123 and 45, respectively.

Press moved one ahead of O’Hara for the time being with 33 career assists, fourth in Stanford history. Her 16 assists this season is a school record.

But no goal or point came bigger than the ones each of them had on this day.

“When you get into big games like this, I always tell myself it doesn’t matter if you are the better team or not,” Press said. “It’s who wants it more.”