Santa Clara reaches Women’s College Cup title match with upset of No. 2 UNC
CARY, N.C. – For the third time in program history, Santa Clara women’s soccer will play for a National Championship after taking down No. 2 seed North Carolina 3-1 on Thursday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The No. 11 seed Broncos (10-1) took a first-half lead in the College Cup semifinal matchup and were able to withstand an equalizer in the second half from the Tar Heels (18-2) by retaking the lead seconds later. They would add an insurance goal not long after.
Santa Clara will face top-seeded Florida State Monday at 2:30 p.m. Pacific in the national title game after the Seminoles advanced in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw with Virginia. It will be the Broncos third trip to the title game, including first since since 2002. They won in 2001.
“I’m very proud of our group and the effort,” Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith said. “You have to look at the spaces and find where you can put the ball. You’ve got to be able to have a little heart in what you’re doing. It’s how we do things and I thought there were parts of the game where we did that really well. And when you’re playing a Tar Heel team, they’re competitive. That’s about as competitive a group as you’re going to play against so you have to be prepared to get into some tussles. I thought our players handled that pretty well today. I’m really proud of my team.”
The Broncos offensive depth was on display as three different players found the back of the net. Izzy D’Aquila scored first and Kelsey Turnbow answered the Tar Heels lone goal to put her side back on top 2-1 before Skylar Smith scored her third of the tournament. In the end, the Broncos outshot North Carolina 12-10 and held a 9-5 edge in shots on goal.
The goals were the first North Carolina had allowed since Nov. 15, 22020, in its only other loss of the year, a 3-2 defeat to Florida State. It was a streak of 694 minutes without surrendering a goal.
Santa Clara has now beaten the Tar Heels in six of the last eight matches, including four of five in the NCAA Tournament and three in a row in the College Cup.
In the 20th minute, the first goal came when a deflected ball found D’Aquila in the box and she was able to beat the goalkeeper Claudia Dickey one-on-one.
North Carolina tied things up right out of halftime. Brianna Pinto controlled a through ball in the box from Sam Meza and finished inside the right post to tie the game at 1-all in the 51st minute.
Just 30 seconds later, Turnbow got the Broncos back on top. D’Aquila got the ball after a Tar Heel defender fell and fired a shot off the hand of Dickey. The rebound was run down by Turnbow and she slid to knock it in.
Skylar Smith gave Santa Clara some breathing room in the 60th. Smith had her first shot saved but got the rebound and blasted it into the back of the net for a 3-1 Broncos lead.
- Santa Clara is making its 11th trip to the NCAA College Cup, which ties UCLA and Florida State for third most all-time. North Carolina leads the way with 30 and Notre Dame is second with 12. The Broncos last appeared in 2004 and won the national title in 2001.
- The Broncos are seeking to become only the seventh program to record multiple national championships. They will be making their third appearance in the national title match. Santa Clara defeated North Carolina, 1-0, in 2001 and lost to Portland, 2-1, in overtime the following season.
- The Broncos posted their 58th NCAA Tournament win. This is the program’s 30th trip to the NCAAs, including six years in a row and 11 of the last 12.
- North Carolina holds a 16-6 all-time record against Santa Clara, but the teams have split the eight meetings in the NCAA Tournament.
- Santa Clara is one of seven teams to have reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament in four of the last five years and the only non-Power 5 program.
- Head coach Jerry Smith is just one of three women’s soccer coaches with 500 career Division I wins, a mark he reached this year on May 13 at BYU, and has 507 after tonight’s victory. North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance has the most all-time with 889.
The Broncos play No. 1 seed Florida State Monday at 2:30 p.m. Pacific in the national title game.