Penn State, UNC make soccer final
SAN DIEGO -- Christine Nairn scored in the second minute of overtime to help Penn State beat Florida State 2-1 in an NCAA Division I women's College Cup semifinal Friday night.
The Nittany Lions (21-3-2) advanced to the championship game Sunday against North Carolina, who beat Stanford 1-0 in the second semifinal Friday.
Penn State reached the final after losing in three previous semifinal games.
In overtime, Nairn took a long pass from Maddy Evans and beat goalkeeper Kelsey Wys from 6 yards.
Maya Hayes was instrumental in getting the ball to Evans, who rifled a shot from the left wing that Wys stopped. However, the ball bounced away and Nairn was there to tap it home.
"I guess I was in the right place at the right time," Nairn said about her 17th goal of the season. "Maddy and Maya did all the hard work. I just tapped it in."
Florida State (20-4) forced overtime when Tiffany McCarty headed a feed from Kristin Grubka past goalkeeper Erin McNulty with 42 seconds left in regulation. McCarty also has 17 goals.
"Over the last 25 games we have faced all sorts of adversity and it has left them with this belief that it doesn't matter what bad befalls them," Penn State coach Erica Walsh said. "You just see their shoulders go back, they take a second and pause and reflect and then Christine Nairn stepped up and led the charge.
"When the overtime started I looked over and I saw Christine looking at her teammates' eyes giving them poise, composure and all the confidence in the world to go out and win the game."
Penn State opened the scoring in the 57th minute on Hayes' 16th goal of the season.
"They did a better job than we did in the middle of the field," Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. "They won more first ball and won more second balls. But we did pick up the pace in the second half and put a lot of pressure on them, but didn't finish enough of our plays."
Nairn helped set up the goal, leading a rush up the middle and feeding a pass to Mallory Weber on the left wing. Weber came in and fired a left-foot shot at Wys, who made the initial save, but dropped the ball. Hayes was right there to knock it into the far right corner with her left foot.
North Carolina's Kealia Ohai scored at 5:53 of the second overtime of the second semifinal Friday night to lift the Tar Heels to a 1-0 victory against top-seeded Stanford.
The Tar Heels (14-5-3), making their 26th appearance in the College Cup semis in 31 years, will go for their record 21st women's soccer title. The loss by defending national champion Stanford (21-2-1) was the first for goalie Emily Oliver.
On the winning goal, Crystal Dunn eluded the Cardinal's Alina Garciamendez with some fancy footwork in Stanford territory after taking a midfield pass from Katie Bowen. Dunn slid a perfect pass to Ohai, who was open on the right side and beat Oliver with a shot off the far left post and into the net.
"Certainly the final strike, the great serve in and the final composed finish were absolutely outstanding," North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance said. "That was probably the best chance of the game. To win the game on the game's best chance is an excellent way to win.
"It wasn't a ball bouncing around in the box or some kind of fluke," he added. "It was an engineered attack with a great final pass and composed finish."
Dunn and Ohai played together on the U.S. under-20 World Cup championship team.
"Playing together on the U-20 for a while definitely helped us," Ohai said. "And obviously playing together on the UNC team, we know each other's tendencies. We know where each other is going to be. And if I'm dribbling down the sideline, I have faith that if I pass it to her, she's going to score, and vice versa."
Oliver, who finished with 10 saves, had made a number of outstanding stops as North Carolina outshot Stanford 20-4 -- including 6-0 in the two overtime sessions.
"Katie Bowen played a good ball in and it got a little ahead of me," Dunn said. "But I managed to get a foot on the ball and I collided with the Stanford player (Garciamendez) and the ball trickled back into my direction. I remember Kealia making a good outside run and it created a lot of space for her, and I just played the through ball into her feet and she finished with a beautiful shot."
Adelaide Gay had five saves and improved her record to 12-3-1 for the Tar Heels, who are 24-2 in national semifinal games.
Stanford was making its fifth straight trip to the College Cup and had reached the finals the past three years, beating Duke last season for its first title.