It wasn’t a pretty game, but the outcome looks fantastic to the Washington men’s soccer team.
Challenged by a tightly packed defensive back line the entire match, the Huskies finally broke through in the 85th minute on a header by Ian Lange off a somersaulting flip throw-in by Michael Harris to earn a 1-0 third-round NCAA tournament victory over Stanford on Sunday night in front of 2,690 at Husky Soccer Stadium.
The win sends second-seeded Washington (16-1-4) into the final eight for the first time in the program’s 50-year history. The Huskies will next host seventh-seeded New Mexico, a 2-0 winner over Penn State on Sunday, on Saturday at 5 p.m. for a berth in the College Cup, college soccer’s final four.
“It’s been a great year,” said third-year coach Jamie Clark, who spent four seasons as an assistant coach prior to stops at Notre Dame and Harvard. “Hopefully it’s not over. We want another great week of work.”
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The Huskies had to work to earn their third win this season over unseeded Stanford (11-7-4). The Cardinal crowded UW’s box at every opportunity and, combined with a stout north-blowing wind that noticeably affected the flight of long kicks and throw-ins, made scoring opportunities rare.
The teams combined for just five shots (none on target) in the first half. Washington finished with 10 shots, Stanford seven.
“They’re the hardest team we’ve played all year,” said Clark, a two-time All-American at Stanford, graduating in 1999. “We played them three times and we snuck away with wins every single time. We’ve done just enough. You don’t get easy chances, so you know you’re going to have to break some guys down or do something special.”
The Huskies got something special when Lange, a sophomore from Kennedy Catholic High, got his head on a Harris throw-in from roughly 35 yards out.
“They did a great job of defending all day,” said Lange, a former starter who had minor knee surgery on Nov. 8 and filled in on this night for Michael Gallagher, who went down with a leg injury in the 61st minute. “I just drifted to the back close so I could attack it. Got up, right place, right time.”
Harris, with 14 assists this season, is known for the precision and distance of his flip throws. Yet on Sunday he struggled with gusts buffeting the field.
“Very impactful,” Harris, a senior defender from Shorecrest, said of the wind. “It was kind of going across the field. So, one side it was helpful, the other side you couldn’t really do much against it.”
Stanford had chances late. In the 74th minute sophomore Aaron Kovar, a Garfield High grad, had a shot from close range fly inches above the crossbar. Five minutes later, freshman Jordan Morris, from Mercer Island, had a one-on-one opportunity against UW ‘keeper Ryan Herman, but his shot sailed just above the crossbar.