The countdown to the College Cups begins. The men's and women's finals will this year take place on the same weekend. Each day this week, Soccer America will preview one of the matchups. We begin with the opening women's semifinal game on Friday in Cary, N.C., between UCLA and North Carolina. Both are No. 1 seeds, but they had to endure tough quarterfinal matches. UCLA came from begin to beat Portland, 2-1, gaining revenge for last year's 4-0 loss in the Women's College Cup final. North Carolina also came from behind -- twice -- to edge Texas A&M, 3-2, in a bruising affair. A&M lost star Ashlee Pistorius with a concussion. Later in the game, UNC lost its most experienced defender, Jessica Maxwell, with a broken ankle. Here's a look at the probables with their stats (G-A-P).
1 VALERIE HENDERSON (Jr., Orinda, Calif.) 0.66 GAA
Adventurous keeper is already UCLA career leader in wins.
9 BRISTYN DAVIS (Sr., Locust Valley, N.Y.) 3-6-12
Converted forward is second on the Bruins in assists.
12 ERIN HARDY (Soph., Costa Mesa, Calif.) 0-0-0
Won spot on U.S. U-20 national team with late run.
14 CAT CALVERT (Soph., Malibu, Calif.) 0-1-1
First-year starter helped shut down Portland attack in QFs.
19 LAUREN WILMOTH (Fr., Garland, Texas) 1-2-4
Big addition at LB with Mary Castelanelli lost with knee injury.
2 STACY LINDSTROM (Sr., Laguna Niguel, Calif.) 1-4-6
Former U.S. U-19 has come on in a big way in her senior year.
5 CHRISTINA DiMARTINO (Soph. Massapequa, N.Y.) 5-7-17
Arguably the premier ball wizard in women's college soccer.
6 McCALL ZERBONI (Soph., San Clemente, Calif.) 2-2-6
Played tremendous two-way game against Portland.
20 KRISTINA LARSEN (Fr. Mission Viejo, Calif.) 3-0-6
One of three UCLA starters from So Cal Blues.
8 LAUREN CHENEY (Fr., Indianapolis, Ind.) 19-1-39
Already one of college soccer's great target players.
25 DANESHA ADAMS (Jr., Shaker Heights, Ohio) 12-4-28
Won Silver Ball at U-20 World Championship.
Lydia Cook (Fr., Acampo, Calif.) started against Florida. Former U.S. U-19 Stephanie Kron (Jr., Paradise Valley, Ariz.) has three goals. Alma Playle (Jr., Davis, Calif.) played big minutes against Portland. Lauren Switzer (Fr., St. Charles, Ill.) started early in the season when the five Bruins were with the U.S. U-20s in Russia. Blake Zerboni (Soph., San Clemente) is McCall's twin sister. Molly Kruger (Soph., Carmel, Ind.) is a transfer from Indiana.
NORTH CAROLINA (25-1-0)
00 ANNA RODENBOUGH (Soph., Greensboro, N.C.) 0.41 GAA
Gave way to former U-19 star Ashlyn Harris in second half of QFs.
10 ARIEL HARRIS (Jr., Holly Springs, N.C.) 0-1-1
Should start in place of injured defensive stalwart Jessica Maxwell.
11 ROBYN GAYLE (Jr., Canada) 2-2-6
Found time between A&M game to play for Canada twice in LA!
32 KRISTI EVELAND (Fr., Southlake, Texas) 0-0-0
Leads all Tar Heels in minutes played.
17 YAEL AVERBUCH (Soph., Montclair, N.J.) 16-5-37
UNC's leading scorer and main distributor must be watched.
26 NIKKI WASHINGTON (Fr., Mesquite, Texas) 3-9-15
Speedster made game-saving stop on line against Texas A&M.
76 ALI HAWKINS (Fr., Encinitas, Calif.) 6-3-15
At 5-foot-9, she is big-time threat in the air.
98 TOBIN HEATH (Fr., Basking Ridge, N.J.) 4-9-17
One of the most exciting left-sided players in college soccer.
9 WHITNEY ENGEN (Fr., Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) 12-12-36
Tied with Averbuch for UNC lead with four postseason goals.
20 HEATHER O'REILLY (Sr., New Brunswick, N.J.) 10-15-35
Only collegian to play for USA in World Cup-clinching win over Mexico.
30 ELIZABETH GUESS (Sr., Athens, Ga.) 6-13-25
Move to offensive mid helped turn Texas A&M game in UNC's favor.
Former U-19 star Ashlyn Harris (Fr., Satellite Beach, Fla.) could get the nod in goal. If she does, it would be her first collegiate start. U.S. U-20 Casey Nogueira (Fr., Raleigh, N.C.) has been seeing big minutes off the bench in the postseason. Jaime Gilbert (Jr., North Andover, Mass.) started in 2004 and 2005. Local product Sterling Smith (Fr., Chapel Hill, N.C.) has scored five goals and four assists.