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Nov. 5, 2010
CARY, N.C – Amanda Howell’s successful penalty kick spelled the difference as fifth-seeded Wake Forest outlasted top-seeded North Carolina in semifinals of the 23rd annual Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Soccer Championship on Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The Demon Deacons (12-7-2) held a 5-4 edge on penalty kicks after the teams battled to a 1-1 tie through two overtime periods. Wake Forest reached its first ACC title game since 1999, when it reached suffered a 3-0 loss to North Carolina in the final. Wake Forest will meet the winner of Friday night’s second semifinal game between second-seeded Maryland and sixth-seeded Boston College.
North Carolina (17-2-2) failed to reach the championship game for the first time in tournament history. The Tar Heels had won 20 of the 22 previous ACC Championships, falling short only in 1988 – when they were edged on penalty kicks by NC State, and 2004 – when Virginia got the best of a PK shootout.
“It’s a tremendous record,” Wake Forest coach Tony da Luz said. “I’m glad we broke it. It had to happen at some point, I guess. We have a lot of respect for them, but we played a tremendous game tonight … We did what we needed to do. It was a great accomplishment by our kids.”
UNC veteran coach Anson Dorrance, who has been at the helm for each of the Tar Heels’ ACC Championship appearances, took the end of the championship game streak in stride.
“I am not really into streaks,” Dorrance said. “I want to congratulate Wake Forest on advancing in this tournament to the final. They played very well, but I am proud of our kids.”
UNC, which played without ACC Defensive Player of the Year Crystal Dunn and second-team All-ACC forward Courtney Jones due to injury, is now 58-0-4 all-time in ACC Championship play. UNC avoided its first-ever loss in the tournament with 2:46 to play in regulation. Meghan Klingenberg tied things up a 1-1 with her fifth goal of the season after a cross from Kelly McFarlane and a head-flick from Ali Hawkins set her up for a 6-yard finish.
“(After) going down a goal and then clawing our way back into it, I thought that was a tremendous achievement and showed a lot of character,” Dorrance said.
Prior to that, it appeared Wake Forest freshman Jackie McSally’s third goal of the ACC Championship (and her career) might be enough to spell the difference. McSallly took a cross from Marissa Park for a short deflected shot that found the net a little less than five minutes into the second half.
“I commend UNC on a great game,” da Luz said. “As always, they were super competitive. For the fans, I thought it was a great game for them to tie it up at the end, and for us to hang in there and win on penalty kicks.”
Klingenberg’s shot that ricocheted off the right post was the only miss by either team in the PK shootout. With the penalty kick count knotted at 4-4, Howell lined her attempt into the right corner of the goal to assure the Deacons of advancing.
“I was a little jittery, but I was pretty sure I was going to make it,” said Howell, a junior from Colleyville, Texas. “I told the coaches I wanted to go fifth. I wanted the pressure. I wanted to put it away.”
The first half ended in a scoreless tie, though both teams narrowly missed out on scoring opportunities. A UNC shot that found the back of net in the opening minutes was nullified by an offsides penalty. Klingenberg and Katie Klimczak later worked for shots on goal, but Wake Forest keeper Aubrey Bledsoe made the save on both occasions.
The Demon Deacons’ best first-half chance came with just under three minutes to play, when freshman forward Katie Stengel worked her way into the open field for a one-on-one chance against UNC goalkeeper Hannah Daly. Stengel, who leads all ACC players in goals n with 14, lined a shot that narrowly missed to the left side.
While Wake goes after its first ACC title on Sunday and hopes to pad an already an impressive NCAA Tournament resume, North Carolina will begin awaiting announcement of the NCAA field, which will be made at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Monday (ESPNU).