Top-ranked North Carolina needed a lucky bounce or two to return to the NCAA Division I women's soccer final four for the 20th successive year, edging Penn State, 2-1, in Friday's quarterfinal at Chapel Hill, N.C.
An attempted clearance by Penn State goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk in the 80th minute slammed off Tar Heels striker Alyssa Ramsey's back side and bounced twice into an open net to deliver the victory. North Carolina has ousted the Nittany Lions from the playoffs two of the past three seasons.
Carolina (23-0) advances to face the winner of Sunday's Portland-Texas A&M clash at the College Cup semifinals in Dallas. The other semifinal will pit the winners of Saturday's Santa Clara-Virginia and Sunday's UCLA-Florida matches.
The College Cup semifinals will be played Dec. 7 at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium; the title game is slated for Dec. 9.
A Jena Kluegel cross led to Carolina's sixth-minute goal. Sara Randolph finished it from a feed from Ramsey, who picked up her team-leading 18th assist.
Goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk, outstanding throughout the playoffs, kept Penn State (21-4-1) in the game, and the woodwork also helped: Tar Heel freshman Anne Morrell twice struck the post in the first half.
The Nittany Lions had the better of the game the final 20 minutes of the first half, and Joanna Lohman's ninth goal of the season -- a 20-yard blast to the lower-right corner off a nifty Heidi Drummond pass -- evened the score in the 33rd minute.
Carolina's defense, led by sophomore Catherine Reddick, limited Penn State to one second-half shot, but the Tar Heels, who have struggled during the ACC and NCAA tournaments, created little themselves.
The decisive goal arrived when Jordan Walker sent the ball into the Penn State box, where it was met simultaneously by Ramsey, Oleksiuk and Nittany Lions defender Bonnie Young.
Oleksiuk got her foot to it, but the ball hit Ramsey's posterior and -- with good velocity -- ricocheted into the net. The goal was Ramsey's 15th of the campaign.
Carolina has won 17 of 20 national titles. This will be its 21st successive national semifinal appearance; the first, and first title, was in an AIAW-sanctioned tournament in 1981.
NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP
North Carolina 2 Penn State 1. Goals: Randolph (Ramsey, Kluegel) 6, Ramsey (Walker) 80; Lohman (Drummond) 23.
Virginia (17-3-2) at Santa Clara (20-2), 1 p.m. PST
Texas A&M (17-3-1) at Portland (19-3), noon PST
Florida (20-3-1) at UCLA (20-2), 1 p.m. PST
at SMU (Dallas)
Semifinals (Dec. 7)
North Carolina (23-0) vs. Portland-Texas A&M winner
UCLA-Florida winner vs. Santa Clara-Virginia winner
Final: Dec. 9.
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