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The Daily Tar Heel

Soccer team into NCAA finals

Yael Averbuch
DTH/David Enarson


Yael Averbuch stood over the first penalty kick of the season for the North Carolina women's soccer team" knowing her attempt would be the Tar Heels' best chance to score against a stingy UCLA defense.

The Bruins then had allowed only five goals in the entire season and until the foul in the game's 41st minute they appeared poised to keep UNC's top-ranked offense out of the net.

But for a player making her school-record 104th consecutive start pressure proved not to to be a factor.

The former national Player of the Year perfectly placed the shot past a diving  UCLA keeper and into the lower right hand corner of the net.

Averbuch's score was the game-winner" and UNC defeated UCLA 1-0 to advance to the Sunday's national championship.

""We've practiced them a lot" so I was pretty confident and knew what I wanted to do beforehand she said. I knew if I kept it low and hit it side panel like Anson always tells us that no matter where the keeper went" it would have a good chance of going in.""

Coach Anson Dorrance joked after the game about how he hates practicing penalty kicks because it's so boring for him to watch. He said the only reason he made his team work on them was because Averbuch nagged him about it every practice.

""I hate penalty kicks" and I wish games wouldn't be resolved that way but I think it is wonderfully appropriate that this girl that's kept on me all year about making sure that we were practicing our penalties stepped up in this game and finished hers he said.

The penalty kick was set up when UCLA's Erin Hardy attempted to dislodge Brittani Bartok of the ball on a tackle late in the first half well inside the penalty area.

I didn't see a replay they didn't replay it on the big screen" Hardy said. I didn't think it was a (penalty kick) but I think it's a hard (penalty kick) to call in the Final Four.I didn't think I got contact with her feet.""

The first half ended shortly after the goal" and it appeared that UNC would be able to coast to the final as UCLA was struggling just to string together enough passes to get the ball front line and onto UNC's side of the field.

Pac-10 player of the Year Christine DiMartino and the rest of the Bruins' forwards weren't able to get into any semblance of a rhythm because of relentless pressure on the ball by UNC's midfielders and defenders. UNC always seemed to have possession of the ball and its frontline was able to put constant stress on UCLA's defense.

But the Bruins didn't go down without a fight.

UCLA adjusted to UNC's pressure in the locker room and started the second half at high-energy level and with a sharpened focus. The Bruins looked like a new team and they began to penetrate the Tar Heels' defense for the first time and produce several excellent scoring chances.

Their best opportunity came just more than two minutes into the half when Kara Lang received a pass behind the Tar Heels' defense and five yards away from UNC's net. Lang only had keeper Ashlyn Harris to beat but Harris stonewalled Lang's point blank shot to preserve UNC's one goal lead.

Harris made two other saves in the second half" including a strong shot from DiMartino's foot in the 76th minute.

""A lot of people say Carolina goalkeepers don't get much action but the couple times we do we have to come up with big saves" she said. That's what I had to do" and I think I took care of business.""


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