No. 1 Florida State and No. 11 Santa Clara emerged victorious in Wednesday’s College Cup semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The Seminoles were pushed to penalties by unseeded Virginia but dominated on penalties, scoring all three of theirs while the Cavaliers failed to score on their three attempts. Florida State freshman goalkeeper Cristina Roque came up huge with two saves in the PKs. Santa Clara shocked No. 2 North Carolina with two second-half goals in a nine-minute span to secure a 3-1 victory.
No. 1 Florida State: 0, Virginia: 0 (FSU advances 3-0 on penalties)
The Seminoles advanced to their second title game in three seasons and are looking to win their second national title after the triumph in 2018. Santa Clara reached the title game for the first time since 2002 and are also seeking the second national title in program history having won the title in 2001.
The underdog Cavaliers were the better team in the first half, putting pressure on the Florida State back line as the Seminoles defended in an organized manner. Virginia’s pressure was nearly rewarded in the 13th minute, as Rebecca Jarrett launched a curling effort from just inside the 18-yard box — the shot ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar and landed just outside the goal line.
Florida State has only allowed two shots on goal in their first three tournament matches before allowing two in the first half alone and five in total.
After Virginia came out of the locker room with more energy, Florida State grew into the match and earned a slew of corners, which the Cavaliers defended well. Dead-ball situations had been a weakness for Virginia — 15 of the 21 goals they allowed this season came from set pieces.
Both sides became more cautious as the second half drew to a close and the match headed into extra time scoreless as the sun set in Cary.
The first extra time period saw few clear-cut chances for either team, with the best chance coming when Florida State’s Clara Robbins, who had two goals in the Seminoles’ 4-3 regular season win over Virginia, put a weak shot on net that was easily saved by Ivory.
Virginia came up with perhaps the best chance of the match two minutes into the second extra time period. Diana Ordonez, who had a hat trick in the third round against Rice, got her head to a cross from six yards out. The attempt was well saved by Roque.
That was the last great chance of the match, and the exhausted teams headed to penalty kicks still scoreless.
Virginia’s Alexa Spaanstra opened the shootout by missing over the crossbar, and Ordonez and Taryn Torres had poor attempts saved by Roque. Florida State was clinical with their three attempts, with Gabby Carle scoring the clinching goal to send the Seminoles to the national title game.
No. 11 Santa Clara: 3, No. 2 North Carolina: 1
The second match of the day was an open affair right from the beginning. Santa Clara started fast with Julie Doyle and Kelsey Turnbow putting efforts on goal for the Broncos in the first 10 minutes.
Santa Clara struck first 20 minutes into the match. Turnbow, a second round pick by the Chicago Red Stars in the 2021 NWSL Draft, played a through ball that was deflected into the path of Izzy D’Aquila. North Carolina defender, Abby Allen, misplayed the ball in the box, allowing D’Aquila a clear shot on goal. The sophomore made no mistake, slotting the ball past UNC goalkeeper Claudia Dickey. It was the first goal the Tar Heels had allowed in the tournament.
The Tar Heels managed only one shot in a 25 minute span before Alexis Strickland’s shot from long range was easily saved by Broncos goalkeeper, Marlee Nicolos.
North Carolina emerged for the second half with renewed energy, and it took only six minutes for them to find the equalizer. Sam Meza fed a beautiful pass into the box and Brianna Pinto got the ball past Nicolos to even the score. It was the 14th goal of the season for Pinto, who was drafted third overall by Gotham FC.
The tie lasted just 30 seconds. Soon after the restart of play, D’Aquila pounced on a sloppy pass to win possession just outside the box. Her shot was saved by Dickey, but the ball kept rolling slowly towards the goal. Turnbow was first to reach it, sliding to redirect it into the goal to restore the Broncos’ lead. It was Turnbow’s team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Santa Clara kept the pressure on, and nine minutes later they doubled the lead. Midfielder Skylar Smith burst into the box and had her initial attempt saved by Dickey, but she collected her own rebound and scored to give the Broncos some distance.
From there, Jerry Smith’s Santa Clara side was barely pressured as they sought out the remainder of the match. Playing just 14 miles from their campus in Chapel Hill, UNC enjoyed the majority of the support from the limited-capacity crowd of 2,166. The Tar Heels could muster only a single shot for the remainder of the match — an 87th minute effort from Talia Deilaperuta that was saved by Nicolos.
Minutes later, the final whistle blew, putting the Broncos in the title game for the third time in program history.
Florida State and Santa Clara will meet in the College Cup final in Cary on Monday at 5:30 p.m. EDT. The match will be televised in the United States on ESPN2.