USC Edges Rival UCLA in NCAA Semifinal

Dec. 7, 2007

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Florida State and Southern California are newcomers to the top tier of women's college soccer.

Now, they'll play for the biggest prize of all.

Amanda DaCosta scored the go-ahead goal in the 72nd minute to help the Seminoles advance to Sunday's NCAA Women's College Cup final with a 3-2 win over Notre Dame on Friday night.

In the second semifinal, Amy Rodriguez scored two goals in the second half and the Trojans rallied for a 2-1 victory over top-ranked UCLA.

Neither winning team has ever played for the championship before. USC had never even advanced to the quarterfinals before this season.

'We're not done,' said first-year Southern Cal coach Ali Khosroshahin. 'We get measured on national championships at USC. Until we do that, this means nothing.'

And while Florida State is playing in its third straight College Cup, the program is only in its 13th season of existence.

'I don't know if it's significant or not,' said Florida State coach Mark Krikorian. 'It feels good, that's for darn sure.'

DaCosta also assisted on Mami Yamaguchi's goal 15 seconds into the game, helping the Seminoles (18-5-3) avenge a loss to the Irish in last year's semifinal. Yamaguchi also had an assist and Sanna Talonen had a goal and an assist for Florida State.

Carrie Dew and Elise Weber scored for Notre Dame (19-5-2), which had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped. The Irish were playing in the College Cup for the ninth time in 14 seasons, but lost in the semifinals for the third time.

'Everybody felt we could win,' said Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum. 'It's hard to say you're the better team when you don't win. But I thought, at times, we were better.'

Yamaguchi, the nation's second-leading goal scorer, touched the ball to start the game, then ran straight up the field. DaCosta fed her a perfect pass between defenders and Yamaguchi beat Irish goalkeeper Lauren Karas with a low shot for a 1-0 lead.

Yamaguchi's 24th goal of the season was the fastest in school history.

'She gave such a good ball and I just had to pass the ball to the net,' said Yamaguchi, a Tokyo native.

The Irish got their first corner kick in the 15th minute, and Kerri Hanks sent a high pass to Dew at the far side of the goal. Dew hit a shot that ricocheted off a Florida State defender to tie the game. Hanks finished the season with 21 assists.

Talonen scored to put the Noles up 2-1, but Notre Dame generated pressure right after halftime. In the 56th minute, Weber sidestepped a Florida State defender and launched a high shot into the left corner to tie the game again.

The Irish kept the ball at the Florida State end most of the second half, but the Seminoles used another quick strike to score again.

Talonen split two defenders and found DaCosta cutting toward the net. DaCosta slid a shot under Karas to put Florida State ahead for good.

'It wasn't our best game,' DaCosta said. 'We didn't play our way. Finally, we took a look at the clock and realized, 'OK, if we're going to make something happen, we've got to do it now.''

In the second game, Rodriguez helped the Trojans (19-3-2) snap a nine-game losing streak to their cross-city rival. UCLA was making its fifth consecutive appearance but has never won the championship.

'We battled hard, created a lot of chances,' UCLA coach Jillian Ellis said. 'But we couldn't put them away.'

UCLA (20-2-2) led 1-0 at halftime and seemed to have control until Rodriguez took a pass from Ashli Sandoval in the 68th minute, shed a defender and slid a low shot past Bruins goalie Valerie Henderson.

Six minutes later, Sandoval lofted a corner kick toward the far post. Kasey Johnson headed it toward Rodriguez, who spun and booted a left-footed shot into the net.

'At halftime, I felt like we tried to go out there and make sure we kept our cool and not lose our mental game,' said Rodriguez, USC's leading scorer. 'That's the important part when you go a goal down - not to put your heads down and bring yourself out of the match. I felt like we needed to bring ourselves into the match.'

Lauren Cheney set a UCLA record with her 23rd goal of the season. But the Bruins, the nation's sixth highest scoring team, couldn't rally late and had a 17-game winning streak snapped.

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