December 6, 2002

North Carolina-Santa Clara Rematch Highlights Semifinals

By JIM VERTUNO
AP Sports Writer

Dec. 5, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - North Carolina has set the standard in women's college soccer with 16 national titles, and an appearance in every NCAA Women's College Cup since 1982.

Few teams can withstand the withering pressure and dominance the Tar Heels bring to the playing field.

Except for Santa Clara.

The Broncos are 2-13 all time against North Carolina, but have won two straight over the Tar Heels, including last year's 1-0 victory in the final for Santa Clara's first national championship.

Sixth-seeded Santa Clara (19-4-1) and No. 2 North Carolina (21-1-4) meet in a rematch Friday in the cup semifinals at the University of Texas. Eighth-seed Portland (18-4-2) and unseeded Penn State (19-3-1) play in Friday's other semifinal.

The winners advance to the national title game on Sunday.

Even with the recent success against the Tar Heels, Santa Clara coach Jerry Smith and his players defer to North Carolina as the team to beat.

"Obviously North Carolina is still the standard and the dynasty," said Broncos forward Aly Wagner, who scored the game-winning goal in last year's final. "I guess we're going in as the underdog, which is a good mentality for us to have.

"It will be a great rematch. Last year was a tough game that could have gone either way."

The Broncos are playing in their ninth College Cup, where they hadn't won a game until last year's title run.

For a program trying to create a dynasty of its own, beating North Carolina and winning the championship was like breaking the four-minute mile, Smith said.

"We have a higher level of confidence that we can come here and be successful," Smith said. "Having broken the four-minute mile, we know we can do it. It's doesn't mean we're going to win the game, but we know we can."

North Carolina has outscored its last six opponents 28-3. Alyssa Ramsey and Lindsay Tarplay have combined for 32 goals this season.

Tar Heels coach Anson Dorrance, whose team has qualified for the College Cup every year since it started, said he never gets bored by the Tar Heels' excellence.

"One of the things about playing and coaching at North Carolina is the expectation to compete for national championships," Dorrance said. "There's always that underlying pressure, but it's something we live with."

Portland, which beat top-seeded Stanford last week on penalty kicks, is playing in its seventh College Cup. The Pilots have advanced to the final only once, in 1995, when they lost 1-0 in triple overtime to Notre Dame. That was also the only time North Carolina failed to make the final.

Portland's offense runs through sophomore forward Christine Sinclair, who has 23 goals this season. No other Pilots player has more than six.

"I have a tendency to score a couple of goals," Sinclair said. "That's my job."

Portland hasn't given up a goal in the NCAA tournament.

"Defense wins championships," Portland coach Clive Charles said. "You have to make sure that when you do score, it's enough to win."

Penn State has four players with at least 10 goals. The Nittany Lions are in their second College Cup in four years.

"We know the (underdog) role that we're in," said Penn State forward Christie Welsh, who has 13 goals. "We like it that way."