We now know who will compete in the 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup final at Orlando City Stadium on Sunday. Stanford advanced with a 2-0 semifinal win over South Carolina in the opener and UCLA out-lasted Duke in penalties after a scoreless draw. The two Pac-12 rivals will meet in Sunday’s final at noon.
The Cardinal and Gamecocks were essentially over by halftime but the Bruins and Blue Devils needed to play beyond 90 minutes to decide who would move on. The game went through two 10-minute overtime periods and into penalty kicks before Marley Canales’ shot as the fifth UCLA shooter pushed the Bruins to a 4-3 penalty victory following 110 minutes of scoreless soccer.
Stanford 2-0 South Carolina
In the opening match, Stanford bossed the South Carolina Gamecocks, controlling the vast majority of the possession throughout the first half and finding the net twice. Junior midfielder Jordan DiBiasi scored her eighth and ninth goals of the season in the opening period to stake the Cardinal to a 2-0 halftime advantage.
Stanford started quickly, getting a scoring chance in the first minute when Jaye Boissiere had a shot blocked just inside the top of the penalty area. South Carolina had trouble getting out of its own end but the Gamecocks finally broke for their first shot in the ninth minute. Ryan Gareis did well to get onto a long ball down the left channel and whipped a cross into the box for Meaghan Carrigan, who sent a one-time shot on target but it was right at goalkeeper Alison Jahansouz.
Just one minute later, Gareis had to come off with an injury just as Stanford won a free kick out near the left sideline. The Cardinal used the set piece to open the scoring. DiBiasi got her head to Tegan McGrady’s service and nodded it home to break the scoreless deadlock.
It was the first goal allowed by South Carolina in its entire NCAA tournament run to the Final Four.
The Cardinal continued to dominate possession and the Gamecocks started to show some cracks on defense as the first half wore on, trying to counter whenever they could. But Stanford was able to thwart most of those counters with speed and the diligent tracking back of USWNT midfielder Andi Sullivan.
South Carolina fashioned a good chance on its first corner of the game in the 16th minute, when a good hustle play by freshman Luciana Zullo led to a rare Gamecocks set piece. The corner fizzed into the area and Jahansouz couldn’t get a touch on it but no one could get onto it and it skipped harmlessly out the other side of the box.
DiBiasi doubled the lead in the 26th minute. McGrady sent Catarina Macario down the left channel and the freshman crossed to DiBiasi, who quickly fired a shot that deflected off a defender and wrong-footed goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski to make it 2-0. It was DiBiasi’s first multi-goal game of the 2017 season.
Stanford continued to control the game and build up attacks, taking an 8-3 edge in shots into the break. DiBiasi hit a hard strike right at the keeper, nearly netting a hat trick in the first half, and the Gamecocks cleared two shots off the line to keep the match from getting out of hand early.
The Cardinal nearly put the game away two minutes into the second half. Macario sent a blast off the post from about 20 yards out and the ball hit the back of Krzeczowski and spun toward the goal line but the South Carolina keeper jumped on it to keep it out just at the last second.
The game calmed down quite a bit after that, with Stanford sending a few shots from the top of the box or beyond over the net. South Carolina, for its part, got a rare attempt away from distance but neither side worried the other’s keeper for much of the second half.
DiBiasi came about a foot from a hat trick in the 82nd minute, scorching a shot from distance just over the bar. That was the game’s final good scoring chance as Stanford hung on for the 2-0 win. It was just the second time all season that South Carolina was shut out. The Cardinal out-shot the Gamecocks 17-5 (7-1 on goal) en route to a fourth College Cup final.
“Obviously no one wants to be sitting here saying the season’s over but I couldn’t be more proud of this group and this team,” said South Carolina Head Coach Shelley Smith after the match. “I told these players to not hang their heads. They’ve done amazing things for this program. They’ve accomplished great things and we just ran into a better team tonight. Stanford is excellent. We wish them well and they deserved that win.”
“I am very happy with the team’s performance,” said Stanford Head Coach Paul Ratcliffe. “I think we played really well. We started the game fast, Jordan scored a couple great goals, just a fantastic performance all around.”
UCLA 0-0 Duke (4-3 on pens.)
The nightcap started as the more entertaining game, with UCLA pressing high and Duke throwing counter-attack haymakers back. While the Bruins came at the Blue Devils in waves, with creative passing and runs into the area, Duke looked to hit back with the blazing speed of Imani Dorsey, who fired three of the Blue Devils’ four first-half shots.
UCLA got numbers into the box just five minutes in but between three different players, no one could pull the trigger on a shot and a great early scoring chance went wanting. Dorsey missed wide of the back post by inches on the counter attack at the 18-minute mark for Duke.
Three minutes later, UCLA earned a corner kick and tried an audacious playground set piece, with two players dummying for Hailie Mace but referee Jonathan Weiner got in her way and she was unable to take the shot. When the ball cycled back in from the opposite wing, Jessie Fleming got onto a cross but her header didn’t have enough sting to beat Duke keeper E.J. Proctor. A minute later, Ashley Sanchez fired just wide for UCLA.
Mace nearly caught Proctor napping in the 33rd. Off a Duke turnover, Mace picked up the ball, turned, and fired from about 30 yards out but her long-range effort was just over the bar.
The best chance of the first half came from Duke in the 37th minute. Kayla McCoy got down the right wing and fizzed a cross to the top of the six-yard box for Taylor Racioppi, but she got under it and fired high from close range.
The frantic pace settled down just a bit toward the end of the opening period, but UCLA did send a few dangerous crosses into the box. The Bruins consistently were getting four or five players into the area but couldn’t quite connect and eventually the halftime whistle blew on a scoreless opening 45 minutes.
UCLA held a 6-4 advantage in shots (1-1 on target).
The Bruins got a chance just after the restart with a great through ball putting Mace in behind the defense but her shot went just wide. Five minutes later, Racioppi again fired over the bar for Duke — this time from the top of the box. But four minutes after her miss, Racioppi made a vital block on a shot by Sanchez to prevent a good scoring opportunity for the Bruins.
The Bruins weren’t able to break down Duke as much in the second half. The Blue Devils had five defending on the defensive end with a four-player midfield and they started forcing more and more turnovers as the game wore on. The pace slowed considerably as the Bruins tired and it made Duke’s counter much more dangerous.
In the 67th minute Dorsey sliced through the UCLA defense by herself and fired from the top of the area but she didn’t get all of it and Teagan Micah made a sprawling save. Ten minutes later, McCoy got into the box but a last-minute challenge by Kaiya McCullough prevented a clean shot and forced a corner.
As time wound down, MacKenzie Cerda fired a long-range effort a few feet over the bar for the Bruins with four minutes to play as the prospect of extra time loomed over the match. UCLA got the last opportunity in normal time in the 89th minute but Zoey Garolski fired over the bar from range.
Anika Rodriguez tried to get the Bruins on the board early in the extra session, trying to chip Proctor but the Duke goalkeeper didn’t stray from her line and caught it easily. That was basically it for the chances in the first half of overtime. There wasn’t any real menace in the second overtime period either and the game went into spot kicks. UCLA out-shot Duke, 15-10, but got only one shot on goal and that came in the first half. The Blue Devils put three on target.
In the shootout, Duke shot first and put the Bruins under pressure when Gabi Brummett sent Micah the wrong way and slotted into the lower left corner. Zoey Goralski evened it up for UCLA with a shot high on the right side past Proctor. The Bruins took the advantage when Duke’s Melinda Allen fired off the top of the crossbar and Julia Hernandez followed with a goal for UCLA. After Karlie Paschall evened things up with Duke’s third shot, Proctor stopped Cerda’s effort and the teams were even at 2-2 after three shooters.
Ashton Miller put Duke ahead on penalties, 3-2, when her shot went in off of Micah’s hands and it seemed the tide was starting to turn. But McCoy leveled it for UCLA on the next shot. With the shootout tied at 3-3 after four shooters apiece, Kat McDonald stepped up for Duke but Micah made the save. The stage was then set for Marley Canales, who fired high but just under the bar to send UCLA through to the final.
“I can’t say enough how hard that is to do, coming in cold off the bench and being the fifth kicker,” said UCLA Head Coach Amanda Cromwell after the match. “A lot of players would shy away from those moments and Marley grasped it, took it, and got to celebrate.”
“I was approaching the ball and I could see (Proctor) moving right-left, right-left,” Canales said. “And for a quick second I was like, ‘oh shoot.’ But I knew that Coach Amanda and the rest of our staff told me to trust the side that you’re always going to. I had been hitting it well to that side for a lot of the season. So I just had to hit it well and whatever happens, happens.”
While the Bruins were celebrating, Duke Head Coach Robbie Church had to console his players on the other side, including his goalkeeper who played well all season but saw four shots go past her in the penalty shootout.
“You just hug her and tell her you love her,” Church said. “She did the best she could and she did great.”
Canales finished as the game’s hero but that didn’t keep her teammates from literally dumping on the freshman afterwards.