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The Penn State women's soccer team heads to San Diego this weekend and hopes to return with their first ever national championship.
For the first time since 2005, Penn State is in the College Cup and is hoping to come back to Happy Valley with their first national championship. They will take on Florida State in the national semifinals tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET. A win would propel them to their first national title game where they would take on the winner of Stanford-North Carolina who play at 11:00 p.m. ET. Let's take a look at the teams that make up the final four.
Penn State (20-3-2)
How They Got Here: 1st Round: def. LIU-Brooklyn 4-0; 2nd Round: def. Boston College 5-2; 3rd Round: def. Michigan 1-1 (3-2 PK); Quarters: def. Duke 1-0
Key Players: F Maya Hayes, M Christine Nairn, F Mallory Weber, GK Erin McNulty
College Cups/National Championships: 4/0
By now, everyone should know about this Lady Lion squad. Penn State won their 15th straight Big Ten regular season title this season and although they lost to Illinois in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, they were still able to earn a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Defense has been their key so far, allowing only three goals so far in the tournament. Goalkeeper Erin McNulty has played a huge role, especially in the third round against Michigan, stopping the Wolverines' last three penalty kicks as Penn State rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to win the shootout, 3-2.
There are some connections between Penn State and their opponents in the semifinals, Florida State. Penn State coach Erica Walsh took the Seminoles to the College Cup in 2005 as an assistant and McNulty was their starting goalkeeper as a freshman in the 2007 national final.
Florida State (20-3-0)
How They Got Here: 1st Round: def. Mississippi Valley State 6-0; 2nd Round: def. Texas Tech 3-2 (OT); 3rd Round: def. Texas A&M 4-0; Quarters: def. Notre Dame 1-0
Key Players: GK Kelsey Wys, F Tiffany McCarty, D Kassey Kallman
College Cups/National Championships: 6/0
Florida State makes their second straight College Cup appearance after losing in the national semifinals to eventual national champion Stanford last year. The Seminoles also saw an early exit from their conference tournament this year, but also was rewarded with a #1-seed in the NCAA Tournament after a stellar regular season. Wys has 10 shutouts on the year, including three in tournament action. That doesn't mean they are without offense, though, as they have outscored opponents 54-13 on the season with the redshirt senior forward McCarty leading the way with 16 goals and 5 assists on the season.
How They Got Here: 1st Round: def. Idaho State 3-0; 2nd Round: def. Santa Clara 2-1; 3rd Round: def. Denver 3-0; Quarters: def. UCLA 2-1
Key Players: GK Emily Oliver, D/F Courtney Verloo
College Cups/National Championships: 6/1
The Cardinal are back in the College Cup after claiming their first national championship last year. Stanford is led by the top goaltender in the nation in Oliver, who holds a perfect 15-0-0 record this year. Verloo owns a double-double on the season with 10 goals and 11 assists.
Penn State and Stanford played in the Penn State Invitational back in August, a game that the Cardinal took 3-2. Stanford's only blemish on the season came in the game after when West Virginia took down the champs by a 1-0 score at Jeffrey Field. They also tied with Boston College who Penn State defeated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina (13-5-3)
How They Got Here: 1st Round: def. Radford 2-0; 2nd Round: def. Illinois 9-2; 3rd Round: def. Baylor 1-1 (4-2 PK); Quarters: def. BYU 2-1 (OT);
Key Players: M Amber Brooks, F Summer Green
College Cups/National Championships: 26/20
The Lady Heels are the heavyweights of college soccer, winning 20 national championships overall since 1982 (Notre Dame is the second-closest with three). Brooks, the senior midfielder and Pennsylvania native, was named TopDrawerSoccer.com's National Player of the Year not just based on her numbers (7 goals, 6 assists), but because of her leadership and quarterbacking on the field. She and Green are the leading goal-scorers on the team with seven goals which shows their great balance across the front line, shown none better than in their second-round win over Illinois where eight different players scored the team's nine goals.
North Carolina was the only two-seed to make the College Cup.
Additional Notes: TopDrawerSoccer.com honored five Lady Lions on their Teams of the Year. Christine Nairn and Maya Hayes were placed on the first team while Whitney Church was placed on the second team. Raquel Rodriguez and Mallory Weber were first team and second team all-Freshman picks, respectively.
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