Dec. 5, 2008
Cary, NC - The UCLA women's soccer team saw its undefeated season come to an end on Friday night, falling to North Carolina, 1-0 in the semifinals of the NCAA College Cup before 8,926 fans at the WakeMed Soccer Park. The game's only goal was scored in the 41st minute on a penalty kick by North Carolina's Yael Averbuch.
"I thought it was an outstanding game," said UCLA head coach Jillian Ellis. "I congratulate North Carolina and I wish them well. I'm just exceptionally proud of my team. I thought it was a game with two halves. I felt if we would have put two halves together as we played in the second half, we would have had maybe a different result."
UCLA (22-1-2) suffered some bad luck early on, as senior midfielder McCall Zerboni suffered an ankle injury in just the 18th minute and did not return the rest of the match. Zerboni , who was the Bruins' emotional leader this year, led the team in scoring during the NCAA Tournament with nine points (4g, 1a).
North Carolina's goal came with less than five minutes left in the first half when the referee called a penalty kick after Tar Heel Brittani Bartok was brought down in the box on a tackle by Bruin defender Erin Hardy. Averbuch took the kick, sending a low-liner to the bottom right corner. Bruin goalkeeper Ashley Thompson guessed correct on the shot, however the ball slipped just beyond her fingertips and into the goal.
"I wasn't nervous," said Thompson of facing the penalty kick. "I just stayed calm. She showed me which way she was going and I was just unfortunate to not get there far enough to the left."
Added Hardy on the called foul in the box, "I didn't see a replay - they didn't replay it on the big screen. I didn't think I got contact with her feet. I think it's a hard call to make in the Final Four."
Despite being down 1-0, UCLA regrouped at halftime and was able to put together several quality scoring chances in the second half. Probably the Bruins' best chance of the night came just minutes into the half, as midfielder Kara Lang got some space in the box and tried to slip a right-footed shot past UNC goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who was forced to make a diving stab at the ball to keep it out of the net.
"We believe in each other and we just picked each other up and we were ready to get a goal back," said Hardy of the team's effort in the second half. "Unfortunately we didn't get that."
Said North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance, "I want to congratulate UCLA. I thought we played a good first half, but I thought they played a great second half so we feel very fortunate to be sitting here as a 1-0 victor. I'm thrilled."
Notes: North Carolina (23-1-2) advances to face Notre Dame (26-0) in Sunday's NCAA Final ... Despite the loss, the Bruins still set a new school record for fewest losses in a season, suffering just one defeat in 25 matches ... UCLA fell just one win shy of breaking the school record for victories in a season, ending the season with 22 (the Bruins also had 22 wins in 2005) ... It marked the sixth straight season (and seventh time in program history) that UCLA has advanced to the Final Four ... UCLA's seniors finish their careers with four College Cup appearances, four Pac-10 titles and an overall record of 85-9-6 ... The Bruins move to 0-7 all time against the Tar Heels (0-4 in College Cup meetings) ... All four teams in this year's NCAA College Cup were the No. 1 seeds in their respective regions.