Four minutes into the national semifinal, Stanford’s season was over. On a pitch that could best be described as flooded, the Hoyas snatched an early 1-0 lead on a 25-yard full volley in the fourth minute, and the Cardinal offense was never fit for a response.
No. 3 Georgetown (19-1-3, 7-0-2 Big East) saw itself through to the NCAA final with a 2-0 defeat of No. 7 Stanford (14-3-5, 6-2-2 Pac-12) in WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday. The Hoyas outshot the Cardinal 9-2, with the two shots representing the lowest total for Stanford in more than 5 years.
Before Stanford could settle into the match, Sean Zawadzki had beat redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas from 25 yards out. Entering the game, Thomas had allowed just 14 goals on the season, made 66 saves, and twice propelled his team through a penalty kick shootout in the tournament. On Friday, Zawadzki’s strike grazed his fingers.
“It wasn’t a beautiful game for either team, certainly not how the teams normally play, but they just adjusted a little bit better than we did,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. “It just all comes from that early strike. Suddenly, they’re there in front and buzzing.”
“An early goal gives a serious advantage in terms of their [the opponent’s] ability to sit back a little more and us needing to go after it a little more,” said fifth-year center back Tanner Beason.
On a sopping night with abysmal playing conditions, Georgetown’s early advantage spelled doom for the Cardinal. A cross sent into the box from the left wing was cleared out of the box by freshman left back Keegan Tingey, but directly into the path of Zawadzki.
“Nine times out of 10 you’re having to pick it up out of the trees; technique and strike to beat Andrew from that distance,” Gunn said. “He’ll be replaying that to his kids, his grandkids, his neighbors, anybody who’ll be willing to listen and rightfully so.”
“That moment just absolutely gives them all of the belief in the world and really took the wind out of our sails,” Gunn added.
Stanford never regained composure, with Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Ousseni Bouda taking the only shot of the first half for the Cardinal. The team’s only shot on goal came 10 minutes into the second half, as senior midfielder Jared Gilbey uncorked from the top right of the area, but it was denied by Georgetown goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis.
Eventually, Georgetown padded its lead on a defensive lapse in the 67th minute to erase any hope for Stanford. The Hoyas came down the left flank, bypassing sophomore midfielder Will Richmond and Tingey, and allowing Zawadzki to get on the ball. The goal-scorer added an assist on a cross that neither Thomas nor junior right back Logan Panchot could clear off their lines, which allowed Foster McCune to head home the goal.
The Georgetown offense came into the game with 53 goals, but it was two Hoyas who came into the game with two goals each that both found their third of the season.
“It was the biggest struggle we had without a shadow of a doubt,” Gunn said, “but I think the struggle was as much as the conditions as far as the team.”
Thomas’ two saves were his fewest since making one in a 1-0 shutout of UCLA that also represented Stanford’s season-low in shots prior to the semifinal. After a hot start to the season, including 20 goals in the first eight games while racing out to a 7-0-1 start, the offensive production dwindled to a total of six across the final eight contests. In the postseason, Stanford was outshot in each of its four matches.
“Our team has been absolutely magnificent all year, played some tremendous soccer and just tonight, it just wasn’t there,” Gunn said. “We were just second best in so many areas.”
The Cardinal took all four corner kicks of the match, but even that number was below their season average. Georgetown took advantage, and claimed a win bringing them to a tie for their most in a season in program history. Their next task will be the NCAA final Sunday against No. 1 Virginia.
Friday marked the final match with Stanford for Gilbey, Beason, midfielder Derek Waldeck and midfielder Matthew Radzihovsky. The senior class went 60-12-17 across their four seasons, winning two national championships and three Pac-12 championships. Beason, who redshirted his first year on the Farm, was present for all three of the program’s national championships, while redshirt junior midfielders Marc Joshua and Kyle Casey face a similar decision of whether to return for next season.
“Been here five seasons now, and each journey is a little different, the makeup of the team is quite different each time,” Beason said. “Proud of both the the emphatic performances from the young guys that really stepped up and then also the leadership of some older guys. Tonight isn’t the result we wanted, I think that’s obvious, but pleased with the work and what I think will be the future.”
“Just a little bit better than us in a lot of little categories,” Waldeck said. “All those little categories add up, you know, and that kind of gave them the upper hand throughout.”
Despite advancing to the College Cup for the fourth time in five years, Stanford will leave Cary, North Carolina without additional hardware. Gunn suffered just his second loss at the stage, having also dropped in the semifinal in 2014. For Stanford soccer, it is the second consecutive year being outclassed 2-0 in WakeMed Soccer Park in the semifinal, with the women dropping to Florida State in the same venue at the same stage in 2018, an upset loss that came between Stanford’s two national championship seasons in 2017 and 2019.
“The whole environment at the University is quite special — that shows people really working hard at their craft, whatever their craft is,” Gunn said. “We’ve managed to bring in guys that really soak that up and really embody that as well.”
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.