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Weekly Kickback: New NCAA Women’s Champion

Another soccer championship comes back to Northern California

NCAA Womens Soccer: Division I-College Cup Championship-North Carolina vs Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The seemingly never-ending Major League offseason leaves us with little exciting news on the San Jose Earthquakes, but American soccer as a whole continues. This week a new NCAA women’s champion is crowned, and we learn who the Quakes first opponent of the 2020 season will be.

Stanford is the 2019 NCAA Women’s Soccer Champion

The Stanford Women’s soccer captured their third title in program history, and second in the last three years, Sunday at Avaya Stadium. The Cardinal defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 5-4 on penalty kicks as neither team was able to score in regulation or extra time.

Stanford made it to their third final of the decade after easily dispatching seventh-ranked UCLA 4-1 in their semifinal match. Sophomore Sophia Smith scored a hat-trick to power Stanford to the final. The Tar Heels had a tougher road to the final beating Washington State 2-1 on goals from Alessia Russo and Alexis Strickland. The Cougars were the Cinderella of the tournament coming in unranked and beating three ranked teams on their way to their first semifinal in program history.

The battle between two college soccer titans lived up to the billing as the squads battled out to a 0-0 draw after 110 minutes of play. Some excellent goalkeeping and a couple of barely misplaced shots frustrated both offenses, who each hoped would be the one to find the back of the net first. Semifinal hero Sophia Smith almost put the Cardinal ahead in the 12th minute, sending a rocket to the bottom right corner of the Tar Heel net. North Carolina goalkeeper Claudia Dickey was up to the task though and stretched out her arm to tap the ball safely out of bounds.

In difficult situations, great players rise up. They lead their teams to victory, and it doesn’t get tougher than a penalty shootout in a championship final. On Sunday, Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe had two great players step up for him and his squad.

NCAA Womens Soccer: Division I-College Cup Championship-North Carolina vs Stanford
Several young girls just found out what position they want to play on the pitch.
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The first was Katie Meyer, who, along with Lauren Rood, was part of a duo that allowed two goals al tournament. The first shot she faced in penalties came off the foot of Taylor Otto, who sent a screamer that made Meyer dive to her right. Still, she was up the task and parried the ball away to give her team an early advantage.

After five shots, both teams had scored four goals, and the game then moved to sudden death with the Tar Heels getting the first shot. Meyer once again donned her cape and headed to the goal line determined to help her team win. She was almost too quick to guess her opponents shot, but she chose the right direction to dive, blocking the shot with her knees.

NCAA Womens Soccer: Division I-College Cup Championship-North Carolina vs Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford’s next hope was defender Kiki Pickett who, according to the Stanford Athletics website, stands at just five feet tall. You would not have known that looking at her standing in front of Dickey, her stone-cold game face made her seem at least 10 feet taller. She sent a shot to the lower-left corner of the goal as Dickey jumped in the opposite direction.

NCAA Womens Soccer: Division I-College Cup Championship-North Carolina vs Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Just like that, Stanford were NCAA champions for the second time in three years. Soccer is both beautiful and cruel, depending on what lens you are looking through.

The Alan Pulido Saga Continues

Major League Soccers courtship of Alan Pulido continues with little news coming out since the last rumor. Pulido did begin training with Chivas this week, even though his move to MLS is looking more certain now. It makes sense that he would want to stay in shape during the offseason, so hopefully, this workout is only something along those lines. It’s kind of like the new person you have been dating hanging out at her ex’s house telling you they are only going to pick up some stuff that they left behind. You want to believe them, but you know you have been hurt in the past, so you don’t let yourself think about it too much.

Quakes announce 2019 Home Opener Opponent

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Toronto FC
A typical Qaukes vs Toronto FC match.
Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The league announced the home openers for every team last week, so now we know the Quakes opponent on February 29. They will start the season with a tough test when Toronto FC make a visit to Avaya Stadium. The Quakes have a slight 6-5-5 all-time advantage against the Reds beating them in Toronto in the last seasons, only meeting 2-1. Now we wait the six months left until the kickoff of the 2020 Major League Soccer season.