West Virginia University defeated the University of North Carolina, 1-0, to advance to the College Cup final for the first time in program history. The Mountaineers will face USC in Sunday’s final.
WVU, the No. 1 team in the nation, made history just by advancing to the College Cup. Not only is this the first time in program history that the team has ever made it to the College Cup, but they are also the first Big 12 team to play in the Cup. In comparison, UNC has now appeared in the College Cup a total of 28 times and has won 22 of those, although they had not advanced to the tournament semifinals since 2012.
Going into today’s match, no one expected it to be a high-scoring game, as both teams had only conceded a combined one goal throughout the entire tournament. Likewise, the semifinal between the two only saw one goal scored, WVU’s game winner scored by Michaela Abam late in the second half.
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The match started out rather choppy, as neither team was able to find any rhythm because of the constant stopping of play due to fouls. One such foul led to an early card for West Virginia and Canadian international defender Kadeisha Buchanan, who received a yellow card in just the sixth minute after a hard tackle. The tackled itself looked clean, so the caution was most likely awarded for action after the whistle to stop play had blown. However, the early card meant that Buchanan, a player known for her aggressive play, had to be more conservative to avoid ejection.
The first half remained scoreless as UNC had yet to get a shot off while WVU only had three. Both Ashley Lawrence and Pierre-Louis put two shots on target for the Mountaineers, though neither tested Tar Heel goalkeeper Lindsey Harris. Instead, it was a battle in midfield as both teams struggled to move the ball into the final third. Although Madison Schultz made a breakaway towards goal once for the Tar Heels, UNC failed to move numbers up, and she was easily dispossessed once she was out of options near the end line.
The number of shots increased in the second half, but both teams struggled to finish. It was not until there was less than 15 minutes left to play that either team found the back of the net. The Tar Heels gave up a costly foul near in the Mountaineers’ final third. WVU was awarded a free kick dangerously close to the goal, and the ball was played directly into the goal box. However, it took a couple of deflections before falling to the feet of Michaela Abam, who knocked it just over Harris’s reach for a West Virginia goal.
UNC had a number of opportunities to level the score in the remaining minutes, but finishing was a problem for the Tar Heels. Their best chance came just minutes after Abam’s goal when Madison Schultz went 1v1 with goalkeeper Rylee Foster well inside the box, but she somehow sent her shot well over the crossbar. All of the Tar Heels’ subsequent shots were also off target, and the lack of finishing resulted in their elimination from the tournament.
Abam’s goal was enough to advance WVU past UNC to the College Cup final, where they will next take on either USC on Sunday, December 4 at 6 p.m. EST.