Women’s Soccer Faces UNC for National Title
The journey began on August 17th in Charlottesville, Virginia. This afternoon, three and a half months later, a dramatic season will come to an end across the country in San Diego, California as the Penn State Women’s Soccer team looks to capture its first ever national championship.
Despite fifteen consecutive Big Ten titles, this is unfamiliar territory for the Nittany Lions who are making their first ever appearance in the finals of the College Cup. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the opponent — the North Carolina Tar Heels — has won the championship twenty times since it began in 1982 and finished as the runner-up three other years. The Tar Heels most recently won two consecutive titles between 2008-2009 before Notre Dame won in 2010 and Stanford took home the championship last season.
This season, the powerhouse program has been beatable, entering today with a 14-5-3 record. Both teams have taken similar routes to arrive at this afternoon’s game with a penalty kick victory in the Round of 16, a one-goal victory in the Elite 8, and a dramatic overtime win on Friday.
Junior forward Kealia Ohai played hero for the Tar Heels with a golden goal midway through the second period of overtime to eliminate the top seeded Stanford Cardinal. The Nittany Lions were able to overcome what appeared to be a devastating equalizer by Florida State with 42 seconds left in regulation as midfielder Christine Nairn tapped home the game-winner in the second minute of overtime to defeat the Seminoles 2-1. Junior forward Maya Hayes played a strong game, scoring the initial goal in the 57th minute for the Nittany Lions while keeper Erin McNulty held strong, facing 14 shots on goal and stopping all but one attempt.
Ohai leads the Tar Heels in scoring, but the Nittany Lions will also have to worry about Amber Brooks and Maria Lubrano who both have 7 goals on the season. The other concern will be solving goalkeeper Adelaide Gay, who like McNulty, has played a strong tournament, only allowing 4 goals through five games.
The Nittany Lions’ play throughout the tournament has been far from flawless. They have surrendered a few untimely goals and were out-shot in the last two contests, but each time, they have found a way to emerge victorious. If they do it one more time, they will be national champions.
The match begins at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.