Cardinal, Hoosiers in Soccer Final
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Indiana’s berth in the NCAA men’s soccer championship was not unexpected. If anything, it came a year later than when many thought the young but talented Hoosiers would take the national stage.
Stanford is another story. Only four years ago, the Cardinal finished 5-12-1, lost their coach and had no place on the national soccer scene.
``We started off pretty much at rock bottom,″ said A.J. Sauer, one of seven Stanford seniors who was on that 1995 squad. He said the team often led late in games, then reverted to selfish play and fell apart.
Then Bobby Clark took over as coach, and things changed quickly.
``I always feel that winning’s a habit and losing’s a habit,″ Clark said Saturday. ``The hardest job you’ve ever got is to break a habit, so the hardest job we had that first year was to turn the thinking around.″
Since that last season under coach Colin Lindores, the Cardinal are 41-13-8 and have been making steady gains into soccer’s elite.
``I can’t explain in words what a difference it’s been. We’ve seemed to grow each year,″ Sauer, the Cardinal captain and No. 1 reserve, said. ``For all the seniors, this has basically been a dream come true.″
On Sunday, Stanford (18-4-2) and the Hoosiers (22-2) will play for the national championship at University of Richmond Stadium.
The chance comes one year after the Hoosiers’ dreams of a perfect season ended in a 1-0, triple-overtime loss to UCLA in the semifinals.
Indiana, seeking its fourth national crown, was fast and powerful in overwhelming Santa Clara 4-0. Stanford used a flukish first-half goal and some serious bullet-dodging down the stretch to beat Maryland 1-0.
The Cardinal, winless in five previous trips to the NCAA tournament before this season, have scored 10 goals in their four victories this time, and they’ll need some early firepower to have a chance against the Hoosiers.
``The first goal is the most critical because from that you set a tone within your team and you send a message to the other team about what is to come,″ said Indiana’s Nick Garcia, who followed a goal by Aleskey Korol on Friday with one of his own just 3:12 later to get the rout started.
``It allows you to kind of dictate your style.″
And while the Hoosiers did that against Santa Clara, Stanford got a fortunate bounce in the 40th minute and then held on the rest of the way against the Terrapins, who dominated the last 45 minutes of play.
The victory prompted some to speak of Stanford’s good fortune throughout the tournament. It beat San Jose State on an own goal in the first round, and took a 1-0 lead over Virginia on a deflection in the quarterfinals.
Jerry Yeagley, the Indiana coach in his 26th year and ninth trip to the championship game, said there’s no mystery about why Stanford wins.
``When something happens fortuitously one time, that’s lucky,″ Yeagley said. ``But when you do it over and over again, it’s more than luck.″