Stanford claims College Cup

Lurking by the back post, Stanford midfielder Teresa Noyola waited for what felt like an eternity for her teammate Camille Levin's chip-shot cross to reach her forehead.

It was a pass four years in the making, and perhaps even longer. Noyola's 53rd-minute goal from Levin lifted the Cardinal over Duke 1-0 in the NCAA College Cup final Sunday at Kennesaw State. In their final game together, Noyola, Levin and their two senior teammates claimed the school's first women's soccer national title after losing in the semifinals as freshmen and in the finals the past two years.

Stanford has now won 102 NCAA titles, including 70 since 1990. Noyola said she felt "a big weight lifted off our shoulders, and joy and thankfulness to all the people that made it happen."

Top-ranked Stanford concludes the season 25-0-1. The Cardinal, which hasn't lost a game since 2006 when scoring at least one goal, made Noyola's header stand up against a furious Duke onslaught for the equalizer.

"The longest 20 minutes of my life," said Stanford goalie Emily Oliver, named the tournament's most outstanding defensive player. Her leaping dive to deflect a rocketed far-post volley from Duke midfielder Kaitlyn Kerr in the 74th minute was the save of the match.

The No. 3 Blue Devils, who will return all of their starters, finish at 22-4-1.

The match completed a well-received weekend at KSU Soccer Stadium. The first national championship event ever hosted by the school and the second soccer NCAA title determined in Georgia drew praise from coaches, players and NCAA officials. More than 18,400 tickets were sold for the two sessions. Sunday's match was about three-quarters full in the 8,300-seat stadium. The 1968 tournament ended with Maryland and Michigan State as co-champions when their title game in Atlanta ended in a tie.

"The venue is an unbelievable, unbelievable venue," Duke coach Robbie Church said. "Hopefully, it will come back."

The school has bid for the 2013 College Cup, soccer's version of the Final Four. Auburn senior associate athletic director Meredith Jenkins, the chair of the Division I women's soccer committee, said she couldn't find a single thing that was overlooked or needed improvement.

"Certainly, (with) everything they’ve done here, they would be very deserving of hosting another College Cup," she said.

No team deserved the title more than the Cardinal. Beyond going undefeated, Stanford gave up one goal in its final eight games. The only team in the cup not from the powerhouse ACC beat three conference teams in the tournament, including regular-season champion Duke in the final and ACC tournament champion Florida State in Friday's semifinals. Maryland earns the distinction of being the only team to not lose to the Cardinal by virtue of a 0-0 tie in August. The Cardinal beat Boston College earlier in the tournament.

"The dominance that senior class had had over their four years, it would have been a shame if they hadn't walked away with a national title, so I'm super happy for them and just psyched I was there for it," said former World Cup star and Stanford alumna Julie Foudy, who called the game for ESPN.

Foudy was particular excited for Noyola, whom she met as an elementary-school student growing up in Palo Alto. Noyola's teacher was a former Stanford teammate of Foudy's.

"She's going to be good," Foudy recalled her friend saying. "She's going to play for Stanford one day."

When Noyola arrived, she said she had no expectations that the Cardinal could win a national championship. That changed, obviously, through three fruitless College Cup trips. The four-member class – forward Lindsay Taylor, midfielder Kristy Zurmuhlen, Levin and Noyola – will leave Stanford with a 95-4-4 record.

"It wasn't like a North Carolina, where, if you go, you're almost guaranteed to win a national championship," Noyola said of UNC which has won about three-quarters of the women's titles.  "But it's a great story how we kind of built our way up."