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WSU takes on North Carolina today in College Cup

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It’s the Cougars’ first appearance in the national semifinals.

Averie Collins
WSU Athletic Communications

The Washington State Cougars are set for their first semifinal appearance in school history where they will take on the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels at the NCAA College Cup in San Jose, California.

The game kicks off at 4 p.m. PT and will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU, as well as online at WatchESPN.com.

The Cougars are the tournament’s Cinderella story, having stormed as an unseeded team into the portion of the tournament typically reserved only for blue bloods. Along the way, they knocked off No. 1 seed Viriginia and No. 2 seed South Carolina — on each team’s home field. The win over the Gamecocks that propelled them to the College Cup took place in overtime, when defender Mykiaa Minniss found the ball at her feet on a corner kick:

The Cougs’ attack has been relentless on this run, as it has been all season; WSU has averaged two goals scored over its first four games of the tournament. They’re led by third team all-American Morgan Weaver, who has scored three of those eight goals and is second on the program’s career goals list with 42. She’s scored nine times in the last seven games.

Joining her in the lethal attack are Elyse Bennett, Averie Collins and Makamae Gomera-Stevens, each of whom are goal dangerous and put a tremendous amount of pressure on opponents’ back lines.

The defense, meanwhile, has given up only two goals in the tournament — both to Virginia. Goalkeeper Ella Dederick has been outstanding, while the line in front of her, led by third team all-Pac-12 defender Brianna Alger, has been nails.

North Carolina is about the polar opposite of a program. The Tar Heels have won 21 — TWENTY ONE — national titles. The last came in 2012. They’ve also been runner up four other times, and made it to the semifinals five other times. All told, they’ve made 30 trips to the College Cup in the 37 years the NCAA tournament has been held — and head coach Anson Dorrance has been there for all of it, having led the program for 41 years.

The Tar Heels edged past USC to get to the College Cup again, coming back from a 1-0 deficit to eventually win 3-2. Earlier, they beat Michigan 4-0, Colorado 1-0, and Belmont 5-0.

“They’re one of the top teams in the country,” WSU coach Todd Shulenberger said. “They’re probably going to start three in the back. They’re athletic, and you have to survive that first wave for the first 20 to 25 minutes before they sub players in.”

UNC is led by Emily Fox, Brianna Pinto and Alessia Russo, each of whom are finalists for the Mac Hermann Trophy, which is given to the country’s top player.

Dorrance said the Tar Heels won’t take WSU lightly.

“They hunt. We’re not going to be comfortable playing around the back, because they’re hunters,” Dorrance said. “And when WSU goes, they go to goal. They don’t pass around the back for a half-hour to pump up their positional statistics. They understand how the game is – you go forward, stuff the ball in the back of the net, and they’re very good at it.”