On Friday night, the NCAA College Cup kicked off with Florida State facing Penn State in the first national semifinal, followed by Stanford taking on the University of North Carolina in the second semifinal.
Both games were absolute thrillers.
In the first game, with Florida State down 1-0 late in the second half, FSU found the equalizer against Penn State with only 42 seconds remaining in the game. The game went into overtime, but Penn State didn’t allow Florida State to feel good for too long as PSU found the winner only 72 seconds into the overtime period.
In the second game, Stanford and UNC battled through regulation time scoreless before UNC found the winner in overtime to advance 1-0.
Here are three thoughts from the national semifinals.
Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai and Maya Hayes got it done, Choima Ubogagu did not
Both semifinal games were packed with players from the U.S. U-20 team that won the U-20 World Cup this fall. At the U-20 World Cup, Penn State was represented by Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram, Florida State by Kassey Kallman, Stanford by Chioma Ubogagu and UNC by Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai and Bryane Heaberlin.
In the second semifinal on Friday night, Stanford’s Chioma Ubogagu was unable to get much going against UNC’s defense and finished the night with only one shot on goal. She failed to shoot on one gilt-edge opportunity and a poor first touch killed at least two other good chances that had been set-up by her teammates.
On the other hand, UNC’s U.S. U-20’s were the difference makers for their side. Crystal Dunn was fantastic on the attacking end setting up a number of good chances for the Tar Heels including the game-winner.
Kealia Ohai had a relatively quiet game, other than one cracker off the crossbar in regulation, but proved to be the difference in the overtime period. Getting on to the end of a great pass from Dunn, Ohai perfectly placed her shot past Stanford’s goalkeeper Emily Oliver for the game-winner.
In the other semifinal, fellow U.S. U-20 Maya Hayes both scored for Penn State and helped set-up the game-winner in overtime.
The players of the game were PSU’s Erin McNulty and Stanford’s Emily Oliver
For the goalkeepers, on a rainy night on a sloppy pitch, holding onto the ball was not an easy task.
However, Penn State’s Erin McNulty and Stanford’s Emily Oliver both had outstanding nights.
McNulty finished the night with three saves, but what was more important was that she caught the ball well and didn’t give Florida State any good second chances. McNulty, a former Florida State player, was instrumental in Penn State’s win and did a great job handling numerous low-driven services into her area.
For Stanford, even though she was on the losing side of things, Emily Oliver was pure class defending her net. She finished the game with an amazing ten saves, many of which were on open shots from close range. Oliver probably did get away with a handball just outside her box while coming out to stop a ball over the top at one point in the match, but without Oliver, Stanford easily could have lost the game 3-0. On UNC’s game-winner–a point blank shot–there was nothing Oliver could do as Ohai put the ball off the far post and in.
Shame on the NCAA for its site selection
The selection of the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium for the 2012 NCAA Women’s College Cup was not a good decision.
While the NCAA certainly could do nothing about the rainy conditions, the fact that the pitch was not in ideal condition before the games make for two choppy games.
Torero Stadium is used by the University of San Diego for both soccer and football and the pitch was clearly torn up and provided the players with loose footing.
Games as important as the national finals deserve to be played on an ideal pitch, not one that has been chewed up by a football team.
Throughout Friday night’s games, the ball took odd hops making a possession game more difficult and on several occasions players lost their footing due to the poor conditions.
Stanford’s, Penn State’s, Florida State’s and UNC’s players, coaches and fans deserved better.
John D. Halloran