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UNC women's soccer moves on to Final Four with 1-0 win over South Carolina

The North Carolina women's soccer team defeated South Carolina, 1-0, in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday night. 

What happened?

These two teams met in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, where the Gamecocks moved past the Tar Heels thanks to a goal midway through the first half. It was UNC's turn to make noise early Friday. 

In the 22nd minute, North Carolina's Madison Schultz received the ball on the left side of the box. After collecting herself, the first-year forward calmly chipped the ball over the South Carolina keeper and into the bottom-right corner, giving UNC a 1-0 lead. 

The Gamecocks almost leveled things in the 41st minute, as Kaleigh Kurtz found herself with the ball after a corner kick. The defender saw an opening at the far post, and unloaded on the ball, sending it to the top-right corner. The ball bounced off the crossbar, off a Gamecock player and out of play, ending the chance. 

The Gamecocks brought pressure for the final five minutes of the half, but could not break through with a goal, giving UNC a 1-0 lead heading into the break. 

South Carolina opened the second half at a challenging pace, and that paid off in the 55th minute, as the Gamecocks' Savannah McCaskill earned a penalty kick. 

But, as she has done so many times this season, UNC keeper Lindsey Harris came up big. South Carolina's Sophie Groff picked her place in the bottom-left corner, but Harris guessed correctly and punched the ball out of play. 

From there UNC was the only team with a real chance the rest of the way. In the 76th minute, Schultz broke behind the back line and found herself all alone with the keeper. She was unable to convert, however, blasting the ball right at Mika Krzeczowski, who saved it without much trouble.

The rest of the game was played out in the midfield, as neither side could break through, a result I'm sure the Tar Heels were fine with as the clock ran out.

Who stood out?

Schultz has been the break-through player North Carolina has needed over the past month. Her first-half tally marked her fifth goal of her career. All five have come in the past eight games for the Tar Heels.

While fellow first-year forward Bridgette Andrzejewski has cooled down a bit after a great regular season, Schultz has rocketed into notoriety as North Carolina's most productive goal-scorer as of late.

Harris' save on the penalty kick was massive, but it wasn't her only one on the night. The redshirt senior from Austin, Texas, picked up eight saves against the Gamecocks, and in the process set the UNC single-season save record. 

When was it decided?

While the saved penalty kick took some wind out of the Gamecocks' sails, South Carolina didn't relent in its attack until the final whistle blew.

Why does it matter?

With the win, UNC advances to its first Final Four since 2012. The Tar Heels won the national title that season. That's an enormous feat for a team Coach Anson Dorrance was unsure would make the tournament at the beginning of the season.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels will face off against either Duke or West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Dec. 2. The Blue Devils and the Mountaineers face off at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

@jbo_vernon

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