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Nov. 2, 2012
CARY, N.C. - Virginia sophomore Morgan Brian entered the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Soccer Championship as an all-conference first-team selection, but with offensive numbers that didn't leap off the stat sheet at the end of the regular season.
But this isn't the regular season. And in Friday night's semifinal match against top-seeded and defending champion Florida State at WakeMed Soccer Park, Brian showed why she remains one of the league's most dangerous players.
Brian scored five points - including an assist and a goal in a decisive span of 1:44 in the second half - to lift the fifth-seeded Cavaliers to a 4-2 victory and a spot in Sunday's 1 p.m. title match opposite the winner of Friday night's second semifinal match between second-seeded Maryland and third-seeded Wake Forest.
Virginia (15-4-1) will be seeking its second ACC title on Sunday and its first since 2004. The championship game appearance will be the Cavaliers' first since 2005 and their fourth overall.
Florida State (16-3) will await Monday's NCAA tournament pairings. As ACC regular-season champion with a current RPI ranking of 4, the Seminoles are assured of their 13th postseason appearance and a high seeding.
"We're absolutely excited to be moving on," Virginia coach Steve Swanson said. "That was a good team we beat tonight, a good defensive team, and a good team at holding the ball. It's not often that team gives up four goals, so full credit to our team."
The four goals were Virginia's most in an ACC Championship match since scoring eight in a quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech in 2004.
ACC Offensive Player of the Year Caroline Miller put Virginia on the board just 4:55 into the match when she took a pass from Gloria Douglas and lined a shot into the right corner for her 15th goal of the season.
Douglas nearly had the Cavaliers' second score in the 37th minute but her shot on goal was saved by FSU keeper Kelsey Wys. However, Brian scored off a pass from Erica Hollenberg just two minutes later, giving Virginia a quick 2-0 lead.
Rather than being stunned by the Cavaliers' early onslaught, the Seminoles awakened. Less than two minutes following Brian's goal Dagny Bryjarsdottir scored off passes from Kristin Grubka and Tiffany McCarty to halve Virginia's lead to 2-1 with 33:39 still remaining in the opening half.
But that was the extent of the scoring in the first half, which ended with Virginia holding a 6-3 advantage in shots taken. Wys made a pair of saves in the opening 45 minutes, and Cavalier goalkeeper Danielle DeLisle had one.
Virginia's Kate Norbo got a tremendous look on a breakaway in the opening minute of the second half, buy Wys made a sprawling save and just managed to tip the ball wide right of the goal.
Wys was on the spot again with just over 30 minutes remaining in the match, saving Danielle Colaprico's direct shot on goal to leave the score at 2-1. That left the door open for FSU teammate Tiffany McCarty, who scored off an assist from Casey Short to knot the match at 2-2 with 27:01 left on the clock.
The tie didn't hold up for long. Brian, who missed the first nine games of Virginia's season as a member of the United States U-20 World Cup team that captured a gold medal in Japan, continued to make up for lost time.
With just over 22 minutes remaining, Hollenberg took a pass from Brian and snuck a shot in from the short left side to put Virginia back in front by a 3-2 score. Then, at the 20:06 mark, Brian struck again with her second goal of the night and second goal of the year, scoring off a pass from Julia Roberts for a 4-2 Cavalier lead.
"When I first joined the team, right when I got back from the World Cup, I was still trying to get caught up on in school and join the team in the middle of the season," Brian said. "I think now my teammates have helped me to come in and play better soccer with them. It's all to them right now."
This time, the Cavaliers' two-goal edge held up until the finish as they avenged last year's loss to Florida State in the semifinals and moved on to Sunday's championship game.
"We got beat by a better team today," said Florida State coach Mark Krikorian. "The University of Virginia was sharp as can be, and we weren't good enough. I guess that is what happens when you play at this level, playing against a better team and on a day like today they will certainly beat you and then punish you for your mistakes; hats off to them."