By NICHOLAS SCHWARTZ
KENNESAW, Ga. — Avenging consecutive 1-0 losses in the N.C.A.A. tournament final, Stanford held on to beat Duke by that same score on Sunday to win its first national title in women’s soccer.
Clinging on to the one-goal lead provided by Teresa Noyola’s header in the 53rd minute, Stanford (25-0-1) completed an unbeaten season by weathering sustained pressure by Duke for most of the second half. The Blue Devils repeatedly pushed players forward in the closing minutes in search of a tying goal.
“It was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” Cardinal goalkeeper Emily Oliver said.
In a game that included offensive chances, physical play and even a bit of controversy, Duke (22-4-1) and Stanford delivered a scintillating final. Each team had numerous opportunities. After a run of games in which they played poorly in the early going, the Blue Devils had a confident start in the final. They were met by a well-prepared Stanford team that traded chances early on, though the possession-oriented Cardinal began to assert their will on the game in the first half.
Duke’s back line made a concerted effort to crowd Stanford strikers Lindsay Taylor and Chioma Ubogagu, but when the technically outstanding Ubogagu was able to penetrate, she proved dangerous. Midway through the first half, it looked as if her dribbling skills had won the Cardinal a penalty kick. Fighting through a double-team, Ubogagu, a freshman, worked around center back Libby Jandl and flicked the ball past Erin Koballa to create a clear shot at goal. It appeared that Koballa then pulled down Ubogagu, but no penalty was called.
In the 53rd minute, Stanford got the break it needed. Duke’s Kelly Cobb failed to clear a ball in the penalty area and Stanford right back Camille Levin ran to the end line looking to cross the ball. Her first attempt was blocked, but Levin recovered and slotted a perfectly measured cross to Noyola, who was waiting at the far post. For Noyola, the headed goal was four years in the making.
“Camille played a great ball, and that shows how connected we are,” Noyola said. “I knew exactly what she was going to do.”
Duke mounted a spirited comeback but could not force a goal past Oliver, who made two big saves to preserve the lead. Stanford had a penalty-kick scare of its own, when Duke’s Mollie Pathman was taken down by Kendall Romine in the area, but again the referee waved for play to continue.
Laura Weinberg had Duke’s best chance in the 72nd minute, when she tried to volley in a cross from Pathman from 10 yards, but defender Rachel Quon deflected her shot over the crossbar.
When the Cardinal cleared the ball downfield for the final time and the clock expired, the jubilant Stanford players piled on one another in the center circle. Thirty yards away, the Duke sophomore Kaitlyn Kerr collapsed — sobbing uncontrollably — as her Blue Devils experienced an agony all too familiar to the Cardinal.
Stanford had lost in the final four the past three years, first in the semifinals and the past two years in the final.
“We showed great character after the heartbreaks of last year,” Noyola said. “It’s already incredible that we’re here after those heartbreaks.”