It took more than 110 minutes, but in the end Stanford stood at center pitch holding the College Cup trophy for the second straight season, beating Wake Forest in penalty kicks.
The two teams each had their chances throughout regulation as the game was evenly played throughout. The Demon Deacons held a slight edge in shots, 10-9, though the Cardinal had a 5-4 edge in shots on goal.
"Speechless. It's a cracking final, I think Wake [Forest] played very, very well," Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said after the grueling game — the second shootout in three days for the team. "It's just tough to get going for both teams, obviously. We get to this stage and we can't ever promise to play perfectly, we don't expect to, our boys, they promised to work hard, they promised to compete and they promised to keep fighting, and I think they really did that today. We just always know in every game we got a chance if we work hard. Not too much more to say guys, I am pretty tired."
Once again, Andrew Epstein was remarkable between the posts for Stanford, not allowing a single goal in the whole tournament. Epstein picked up four saves before the shootout and grabbed one of the biggest of his career to clinch the victory, 5-4, in penalty kicks.
After two halves and two overtime periods with no score, the squads toed the line. Stanford's Tanner Beason, Foster Langsdorf, Adam Mosharrafa, Corey Baird and Sam Werner each converted their attempts. For Wake Forest, Ian Harkes, Jacori Hayes, Bruno Lapa and Jon Bakero were able to plug their shots into the back of the net.
The road back to a title wasn't an easy one for Stanford, who didn't grab its first win of the season until its fifth match.
"We looked at the squad we had last year and said, 'Wow,'" co-captain Drew Skundrich said of losing multiple players to the MLS after winning a 2015 title. "We had some incredible individual players and incredible talent all over the field. After the first few games this year, something just felt like it was missing. We had to encourage and develop every single one of our players into something special like those guys were last year. Over time, we did that."
The team rolled through the tournament field, ousting Pacific, Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina and Wake Forest to claim the title.
One crazy stat to showcase how hard it is to win a title is that Stanford went 113 years without a men's soccer championship. Now it has two in a row.
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