By Ells Boone
Omaha was perfectly content with sitting back and letting Stanford dictate play Sunday afternoon, and the Mavericks’ game plan nearly worked perfectly.
Omaha was able to force overtime. However, Cardinal senior forward Charlie Wehan took advantage of an opening in the second minute of the sudden-death extra period to tap home the winner and send Stanford into the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
No. 4 overall seed Stanford (10-2-1, 7-2-1 Pac-12) defeated Omaha (7-3-1, 5-2-1 Summit) 1-0 in Greensboro, N.C. The Mavericks were playing their second game of the tournament, after having beaten UNC Greensboro a few days prior. The Cardinal, meanwhile, benefitted from fresh legs, playing their first match since triumphing over Washington to win the Pac-12 title on April 17.
Stanford started off the match on the front foot, earning two corner kicks and taking two shots in the first 10 minutes of play. In the 14th minute, the Cardinal had the ball in the back of the net, but it was called back for offsides. Four minutes later, Omaha would earn its first corner, but the cross was headed out of bounds by Stanford sophomore defender Keegan Hughes.
Just before halftime, redshirt freshman Mark Fisher — recently named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year — sent a shot attempt from just outside of the box over the crossbar. At the halftime whistle, Stanford had outshot Omaha 7-2, but the score remained level at zero.
The Cardinal wasted little time getting its attack started in the second period, but still struggled to break down a Maverick team that was essentially parking the bus. The best chances early on in the half would come through free kicks. In the 49th minute, Omaha’s Stephen Siy was given a yellow card, handing Stanford a goalscoring opportunity outside of the box. Sophomore forward Gabe Segal stepped forward to take it but blasted his attempt wide of the mark.
Segal would get a second opportunity a few minutes later after Miguel Gomez took down senior forward Jack O’Brien in a similar area. This time, Segal’s shot was much closer, bouncing off of the crossbar.
Stanford still struggled to find an opening goal for the rest of the second half. It created a multitude of opportunities, but they were all fruitless. Eventually, time ran out and the two teams got set for sudden-death overtime. The Cardinal had outshot the Mavericks 24-2 in regulation.
Stanford would waste little time going on the offensive in overtime. In just the second minute of the period, redshirt junior defender Andrew Aprahamian broke up an Omaha counterattack and played a pass forward to redshirt junior forward Zach Ryan. Ryan quickly passed to Wehan, who slid the ball to Segal. Finally, Segal flicked the ball over the Maverick defense, where Wehan was able to control it with his head before tapping the ball past the keeper for the match-winner.
Wehan has been a major factor off the bench this year for head coach Jeremy Gunn, and his performance on Sunday was no different.
Next up in the Cardinal’s quest for a return to the College Cup is a third-round matchup with North Carolina (8-4-3, 7-2-3 ACC) on Thursday. The Tar Heels knocked off Charlotte in penalty kicks in their second-round match. The opening kick time is to be determined.