Stanford, North Carolina advance at College Cup
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- North Carolina is the only women's soccer team to finish an unblemished season with a national championship.
The Tar Heels have earned the chance to prevent Stanford from matching that feat.
Casey Nogueira scored in the 83rd minute and North Carolina advanced to its 23rd NCAA championship game with a 1-0 victory over Notre Dame at the Women's College Cup on Friday night.
The Tar Heels (22-3-1) will go for their 21st national title against undefeated Stanford (25-0) in Sunday's final. The Cardinal beat UCLA 2-1 in the first semifinal.
"They're an impossible matchup," North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance said of the Cardinal. "We're looking forward to playing them, just because we think they're an elite team. They're an extraordinary team with tremendous talent."
Christen Press scored 4 minutes into overtime in the first game to propel Stanford to its first College Cup final.
Stanford is the 12th team to enter the semifinals with a spotless record. Most recently, Notre Dame came in at 25-0 last year before losing to North Carolina in the final.
The Tar Heels went unbeaten and untied from 1991-93 and again in 2003 on their way to championships.
"We have to stay humble and realize the job is not done," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "We have one more step to take."
UCLA (21-3-1), making its seventh straight appearance in the College Cup, lost in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive time.
Stanford's Kelley O'Hara and UCLA's Lauren Cheney scored in the second half.
Press, a junior forward, scored after knocking down a clearing attempt by a UCLA defender. She controlled the ball and sent a low shot past diving goalkeeper Chante Sandiford in the 94th minute.
"Yeah, in years past, it leaves a bit of a sour taste," UCLA coach Jillian Ellis said. "But this team has been phenomenally special to me. No regrets."
The players braved unseasonably cold weather in south-central Texas. The temperature at kickoff of the first game was 37 degrees and a stinging breeze blew across the field throughout the night.
Press set up O'Hara's goal in the 64th minute. O'Hara, the Pac-10 player of the year, spun away from a defender and fired a right-footed shot over Sandiford and just under the crossbar for her 26th goal of the season.
"Right after it hit off my foot it felt right," O'Hara said.
O'Hara and Press have teamed up on 20 goals this season and have amassed 121 points, the highest combined total for any two players in the nation.
Cheney, UCLA's career leading scorer, tied it with a similar-looking goal about 12 minutes later. She corralled a loose ball just outside the penalty area, turned away from a defender and sent a right-footed shot over goalie Kira Maker.
Both teams narrowly missed scoring opportunities in the final minutes of regulation.
UCLA forward Sydney Leroux shot just over the crossbar with just under 4 minutes left. Stanford's Lindsay Taylor and O'Hara had clear shots on goal in the final 45 seconds, but both missed just wide.
In the second game, Notre Dame (21-4-1) had a 19-game unbeaten streak snapped. The Irish were playing in their fourth straight College Cup, and lost to North Carolina for the third time in that span.
North Carolina improved to 23-2 in semifinal games and 7-1 against the Irish in the College Cup.
"They deserved to win tonight," Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said. "They were clearly the better team."
The Tar Heels outshot the Irish 26-8 and dominated possession in the second half, generating eight shots and five corner kicks in the first 18 minutes. Nogueira netted the only goal by redirecting a pass from Lucy Bronze past goalkeeper Nikki Weiss.
The Tar Heels recorded their 18th shutout and have allowed only 12 goals this season.