North Carolina outlasts Florida St. in 3-2 thriller to advance to 2022 Women's College Cup final
UNC moves on to College Cup final, 3-2
The third and final meeting this season between North Carolina and Florida State did not disappoint. The Tar Heels built a 3-goal lead in the second half but had to outlast a fierce FSU push to win 3-2 and move on to the national championship game.
The feeling-out process between the ACC juggernauts lasted almost the entirety of the first half, with Florida State earning the better opportunities at goal and UNC defending valiantly. The Tar Heels then turned the pressure around on the Seminoles, scoring three goals in a stretch of 25 minutes on either side of halftime. It was just the second time all season that FSU has allowed three goals. The first time, they managed to eke out a draw against fellow ACC contender Notre Dame. This time, despite a quick response to UNC's third goal and another score to draw within one, it was too little, too late for Brian Pensky's 'Noles.
With the win, the Tar Heels are back in the national championship game where coach Anson Dorrance has been on 26 previous occasions. UNC's all-time record of 21-5 in title games is impressive, but that includes two consecutive losses in 2018 and 2019. The Heels will await the winner of Alabama-UCLA to find out who stands between them and national championship number 22.
Stats at full-time:
👀 FSU within 1!
GOAL 75': North Carolina 3-2 Florida State: GAME ON. The Seminoles pull within one goal with just under 15 minutes to go. Onyi Enchegini's cross was put away by Heather Payne, and the garnet and gold contingent exploded in joy. This rubber match is turning out to be the most entertaining of the three.
🚨 Two goals within a minute
GOAL 67' North Carolina 3-1 Florida State: It started to look like a rout was on in Cary. The Tar Heels added a third goal on an Emily Moxley free kick swung into the box that Julia Dorsey tucked away. But just one minute later, the Seminoles responded through Onyi Echegini, who also headed home after a Jody Brown cross. The intensity has ramped up here at WakeMed. We're in for a great final 20.
66' I FSU with the quick response 🥵— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 3, 2022
(2) @uncwomenssoccer - 3
(1) @FSUSoccer- 1
📺 ESPNU #WCollegeCup pic.twitter.com/91iztIw4n2
Tar Heels up 2 after penalty kick
GOAL 59' North Carolina 2-0 Florida State: Tori Hansen from the spot. She converts her eighth goal of the season (and yet another penalty kick) after an Ally Sentnor shot from outside the box deflected off the right arm of FSU's Heather Gilchrist. The Tar Heels' second-half aggression has paid off, and North Carolina is now a half hour from another national championship berth.
59' I Hansen's PK extends North Carolina's lead!— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 3, 2022
(2) @uncwomenssoccer- 2
(1) @FSUSoccer- 0
📺 ESPNU #WCollegeCup pic.twitter.com/Nkh4sz5Cvn
North Carolina staying aggressive early in the second half
It's become clear in the first few minutes after halftime that Anson Dorrance has told his team to score the dagger as early as possible. The ball has barely left the Florida State defensive half in the last 10 minutes. This is not going to be a park-the-bus scenario for the Tar Heels. The energy is high on the field and it is reciprocated by the local Carolina blue support in the stands.
For the first 40 minutes of this College Cup showdown, it was clear these two teams were more than familiar with each other. Even with the Tar Heels' relatively new three-back look, the Seminoles looked comfortable in possession and carved out plenty of scoring opportunities. Jody Brown in particular saw a couple of chances go by the wayside. The Seminoles outshot UNC 7-4, with five shots on target that required Emmie Allen to intervene.
With just under five minutes remaining in the half, the Tar Heels were finally able to capitalize on their first real opportunity in front of goal. Gambone's opener came on typical North Carolina buildup, working the ball wide for a low cross into the six-yard box. UNC goes into halftime with an advantage, and will have to make a decision for the second 45: Do you sit back and absorb pressure, allowing the Seminoles to have the ball as they'd like and trust your bolstered defense? Or do you attempt to put the game out of reach and open yourself up to a Jody Brown and Onyi Echegini counterattack?
Here's a look at halftime stats:
🚨 UNC opens scoring through Gambone
42' GOAL: North Carolina 1-0 Florida State: Aleigh Gambone opens the scoring in Cary with a quick reaction off a cross that the Seminoles failed to clear. Heather Payne attempted to clear a Maddie Dahlien cross into the box, but shanked her attempt right into the path of Gambone who was standing near the penalty spot. The Tar Heels take the lead just minutes before the halftime break.
41' I TAR HEELS STRIKE FIRST ‼️@uncwomenssoccer - 1— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 2, 2022
🆚@FSUSoccer - 0 pic.twitter.com/8jyem7BOgv
How to watch FSU vs. UNC in the College Cup
When: 6 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 2
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina
How to watch: ESPNU
Previewing FSU vs. UNC
It's not often teams face each other three teams in one season, much less in the College Cup. Yet here we are with the Seminoles and Tar Heels meeting again and a place in the national championship game on the line. Fans of each team (and women's soccer in general) will remember the 2018 trilogy between these teams that ended in the title game, where Florida State prevailed.
This year, the showdown is taking place in the semifinals, with North Carolina on their... heels... in the series, especially when playing at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Seminoles have won three straight meetings in Cary and five of nine overall, including the ACC tournament championship game on Nov. 6.
The defending champions will look to replicate their success by activating the creativity through the middle in Mac Hermann Trophy semifinalist Jenna Nighswonger, who leads the team with 16 assists, and the finishing of Onyi Echegini and Jody Brown in the forward line. Between Nighswonger, Leilanni Nesbeth and Clara Robbins, the 'Noles have nearly over 250 matches of experience in midfield. Robbins is the program's all-time leader in appearances with 109 coming into this weekend. With Cristina Roque in goal, the Seminoles have been nearly unbeatable with a record of 39-1-9 with her between the sticks. That one loss? 2-1 at the hands of the Tar Heels on Oct. 20.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, are looking to return to the national final for the first time since 2019. There are no remaining players from the 2018 title game loss to FSU, but there are six players on the roster from the 2019 runner-up campaign, including assist leader Isabel Cox and minutes leader Tori Hansen. The attacking duo of Avery Patterson and Ally Sentnor have 21 goals between them this season and each has scored against the Seminoles already this season. Patterson's five assists in the tournament are the most of any player, while Sentnor's five goals in the tournament are the most of any player remaining.
Something to watch for: the Tar Heels have deployed a 3-5-2 formation in the NCAA tournament, moving away from the 4-3-3 they used for the majority of the season. It's a small sample size, but clearly, it has worked for them so far. It'll be interesting to see if coach Anson Dorrance returns to the four-back look or sticks with the fresh three-back system against the Seminoles.
Speaking of Dorrance, a win on Friday would give him the chance to win his 22nd national championship and the first in a decade. By contrast, FSU coach Brian Pensky is looking to win his first national championship in his first season at the helm of the program and back-to-back titles for Florida State.
Each team's path to the College Cup
Each of the last five College Cups have featured either one or both Florida State and North Carolina. Suffice to say, neither of these teams are new to the national title scene, but each run to the College Cup is different. Here's how Florida State and North Carolina made it to Cary this year. Click or tap on the scores for a look at a full stat sheet.
No. 1 Florida State
- First round: def. FGCU, 3-0
- Second round: def. No. 8 LSU, 4-1
- Third round: def. No. 4 Pittsburgh, 3-0
- Quarterfinals: def. No. 3 Arkansas, 1-0
No. 2 North Carolina
- First round: def. Old Dominion, 5-0
- Second round: def. No. 7 Georgia, 3-1
- Third round: def. No. 6 BYU, 3-2
- Quarterfinals: def. No. 1 Notre Dame, 2-0