Saturday, December 1, 2012
Throughout the fall, Penn State has been led by the duo of Christine Nairn and Maya Hayes. Former D.C. United Women standout Nairn had 16 goals as the Nittany Lions entered the College Cup, with the New Jersey Wildcats’ Hayes adding 15 since her return from the FIFA U20 World Cup.
On Friday night, the MAC Hermann Trophy-nominated duo helped Penn State create a piece of program history as they each found the back of the net in the Nittany Lions’ 2-1 victory against Florida State at Torero Stadium in San Diego, earning their side its first berth in the NCAA Championship Game.
Hayes, who helped the U.S. U20s claim the U20 World Cup in September, opened the scoring in the second half, tucking home a finish at the near post after FSU goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, formerly of the Colorado Rush, was only able to parry Mallory Weber’s shot in the 57th minute.
As time wound down, it appeared Hayes’ goal would be all the Nittany Lions would need to advance, but the Seminoles’ late pressure paid off in the final minute as former Pali Blues standout Tiffany McCarty headed home Kristin Grubka with 41 seconds to play to send the game to overtime. The goal was McCarty’s 17th of the season, and 10th in her last seven games, as she played the leading role in sending the Seminoles back to the College Cup.
FSU’s joy at sending the game into overtime would be short-lived, however, as Nairn struck just 72 seconds into overtime to give the Nittany Lions victory. Former Hudson Valley Quickstrike midfielder Maddy Evans picked up possession on the right side, and her angled ball into the penalty area found an onside Nairn for a first-time finish and the game-winning goal.
“To be honest I don’t really remember the play, the whole night I guess is a little blacked out,” Nairn told GoPSUSports.com. “We just kicked it off higher up on the field to our goal and played the ball to Maya, and she does what she does, and Maddy Evans with the assist, and thank god she was running down the ball when she might not have gotten it, and just trying to put the ball in frame to score, obviously, and I was in the right place at the right time. They did all the hard work, I just tapped it in.”
The Nittany Lions will face North Carolina in the Final after the Tar Heels took a 1-0 overtime victory against Stanford through Kealia Ohai, who scored in the 105th minute to send her side to its 24th National Championship Game.
Both sides had chances to take the lead in regulation, Stanford midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta, who played this past summer for the LA Strikers, almost catching UNC goalkeeper Adelaide Gay out with a chip from 45 yards in the first half. Former Cary Lady Clarets standout Maria Lubrano went close for the Tar Heels, forcing an outstanding save from Emily Oliver.
North Carolina assumed control in overtime, though, and the New Jersey Wildcats’ Amber Brooks almost claimed the winner four minutes in, only for Oliver to make another big save. Former Long Island Rough Riders standout Crystal Dunn also went close in the 103rd minute, but two minutes later Ohai scored the decisive goal to send her side through.
Penn State and North Carolina will meet on Sunday for the NCAA Championship, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. and the game available on ESPNU.