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2. WOMEN: North Carolina returns to final four
November 27th, 2006 2:07AM



North Carolina had to twice come from behind before beating Texas A&M, 3-2, before 4,887 fans in the NCAA Division I women's quarterfinals and returned to the Women's College Cup after a two-year absence.

The Tar Heels failed to reach the final four in 2004 and 2005 -- the only two years in the 25-year history of the NCAA Tournament they didn't advance to at least the semifinals.

Carolina won after falling behind, 1-0 and 2-1, in one of the most dramatic games in Fetzer Field history. The Aggies went ahead on Laura Grace Robinson's goal in the 30th minute and held UNC to one shot in the first half -- the fewest in its history. Heather O'Reilly, back with UNC after playing for the USA at the Women's Gold Cup on Wednesday, tied the score 47 seconds into the second half, but Allison Martino put A&M ahead again on a free kick from just outside the area in the 56th minute. To make matters worse for UNC, defensive star Jessica Maxwell suffered a broken ankle in the tangle-up of players after the play that led to the free kick.

But the Tar Heels responded with goals by freshmen Whitney Engen and freshman Nikki Washington to go ahead, 3-2, before withstanding a late A&M assault. In the last minute, Washington cleared a ball off the line that had deflected off an A&M player when substitute goalie Ashlyn Harris tried to clear a ball from the area.

"A 3-2 result," said UNC coach Anson Dorrance, "that's a soccer promoter's dream. Lots of goals, end-to-end action, it was just a fantastic soccer game to be a part of. Certainly, [I] want to publicly congratulate Texas A&M -- they gave us just incredible problems in the first half, dominated play, scored a nice chance and we really couldn't get much organized."

Dorrance goes for the 800th win of his coaching career when UNC meets UCLA Friday night in the Women's College Cup semifinals at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. He has won 627 games in 28 years with the Carolina women and won 172 games in 12 years with the men.

NOTRE DAME 4 PENN STATE 0. Freshman Michele Weissenhofer scored a hat trick in a span of less than 13 minutes and sophomore Kerri Hanks had three assists as the top-ranked Irish extended their unbeaten streak to a school record 25 games and moved into Friday's other semifinal against Florida State. The Irish dominated the game with a 27-3 edge in shots but couldn't score until Weissenhofer's first goal on assists by Hanks and Jen Buczkowski in the 54th minute. Hanks (64 points with 22 goals and 20 assists) and Weissenhofer (53 points with 18 goals and 17 assists) now rank 1-2 atop the national scoring charts.

UCLA 2 PORTLAND 1. The Bruins gained revenge for their 4-0 loss to Portland in last year's Women's College Cup final with Friday's victory Friday night. Postseason sensation Rachael Rapinoe put UP ahead in the sixth minute, but UCLA responded with goals by McCall Zerboni less than three minutes later and freshman Lauren Cheney from the penalty spot in the 70th minute. The penalty came after playmaking sparkplug Christina DiMartino was brought down on the left side of the box.

FLORIDA STATE 2 CLEMSON 1. The Seminoles also need to come from behind to return to the College Cup for the second straight year and third time in the last four years. The Tigers stunned FSU on a brilliant strike by Molly Franklin from 35 years and led at halftime, but FSU responded with a volley by Australia international Selin Kuralay in the 50th minute and a goal by freshman Becky Edwards in the 63rd minute. The game drew an FSU record postseason crowd of 1,754.

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