Noyola, Stanford Hoping For A Title

By Kevin McSpadden

Stanford is one of the four teams remaining in the NCAA women's soccer tournament. For the seniors, like Teresa Noyola, they have been in this position before. This year, they are hoping for a different outcome than the last three years.

In 2008, the No. 1-ranked Stanford Cardinal lost to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. The next year, 2009, they were also ranked No. 1. Again, they fell short. This time at the hands of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

In 2010 Stanford was again the No. 1-ranked team for the NCAA tournament. They again lost in the finals to the Fighting Irish. The experience of the last three years taught the Stanford team that rankings do not mean anything.

"Seedings don't matter unless you back it up," Noyola said.

Now, Stanford's goal is to prove that they can get over that hump and take home the NCAA title.

For Noyola, who was a freshman in 2008, her team has been the Conference's best regular season team over her four years on the team.

Noyola said she wants to win the championship even more because of her time playing for the U-20 national team, saying the experience gave her perspective on the unique opportunity she has by playing soccer in college. She knows her time at Stanford is coming to an end and adding a championship would make her time spent in Palo Alto perfect.

"My national team experience gave me a perspective on the college game. It has made me appreciate how unique the college experience is. We get to play and go to school at a high level and have this special balance in our lives," Noyola said.

The Cardinal have a strong desire to add a positive ending to the 2011 season. The Stanford seniors, like Noyola, don't want this year to end like the last three.

For the freshman, the NCAA tournament is a new experience. Leaders like Noyola are making sure that they do not lose their focus and simply enjoy being in the tournament.

"We remember what it's like to be freshman and sophomores and we make sure we guide those players and are available in anyway," said Noyola.

For Stanford, the window is wide open and they want to grab that championship before their opportunity passes.

"I think we learned how special of a team we have here and (we have) to take advantage of our opportunity," Noyola said.

Teresa Noyola has been one of the best players on the Stanford team for her entire career, but this year, as a team captain, she's a person that the younger players look up to.

"Three of (the seniors) are captains. We make sure everyone is on the same page, which is a different role," Noyola said. Her duties have morphed from being a member of the team to being the bridge between the coaches and her teammates.

Stanford's next test is fellow No. 1-seed Florida State on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. PT from Kennesaw, Ga.

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