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UNC women's soccer outlasts Florida State, 3-2, to book trip to national championship


UNC junior forward Talia DellaPeruta (24) fights for the ball during UNC's game against FSU in the NCAA semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

CARY, N.C. — The North Carolina women's soccer team defeated Florida State, 3-2, on Friday to book its ticket to the national championship game.

What happened?

The Seminoles dominated in the early goings with six shots and six corner kicks in the first 30 minutes of play, compared to just two shots and one corner for the Tar Heels. Redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen stayed strong in goal though, tallying five first-half saves.

With three-and-a-half minutes to play in the first half, UNC senior midfielder Aleigh Gambone netted the first goal of the match. First-year Maddie Dahlien sent the first shot at goal from the right side, but it was blocked by Florida State defender Heather Payne. The deflection was sent straight to Gambone, who placed the ball into the top of the goal to draw first blood before the end of the half.

The Tar Heels, energized by their goal, came out of the break with more aggression. Shots on goal from redshirt first-year forward Ally Sentnor and junior midfielder Talia DellaPeruta put pressure on Florida State. Senior forward Isabel Cox almost headed in a second UNC goal off a set piece in the 54th minute, but the shot was saved by keeper Christina Roque.

In the 59th minute, Florida State's Heather Gilchrist was called for a handball inside the 18-yard box, giving UNC a penalty kick. Senior defender Tori Hansen, UNC's penalty kick specialist, went top shelf to double her team's lead.

Seven minutes later, the Tar Heels struck again. Senior midfielder Emily Moxley took a free kick from the left wing, connecting with senior defender Julia Dorsey, who headed the ball into the net to put UNC up 3-0.

Florida State wasn't dead in the water though, responding with a successful counter just 36 seconds later. Seminoles forward Jody Brown sent a perfectly-placed cross to Onyi Echegini, who headed in the ball from the left side of the goal.

Echegini then flexed her playmaking, assisting Payne in the 76th minute to cut Florida State's deficit to just one goal. 

Who stood out? 

Gambone was the surprise star with her first goal since the season opener against Tennessee, while Hansen stayed hot from the penalty kick marker, making her fifth in five attempts.

Allen, although she gave up two goals, came up clutch in the end for UNC with several key saves.

Brown and Echegini were the main aggressors for Florida State, combining for eight shots and scoring or assisting on both of the Seminoles' goals.

When was it decided?

It seemed as if UNC had built up an insurmountable lead after going up 3-0 in the 66th minute, but the Seminoles kept the hope alive after scoring two goals in succession to turn the momentum around.

UNC defended for its life following Florida State's second goal, as the Seminoles played with a renewed confidence. In the waning minutes, Allen and UNC's backline made several crucial stops to put an end to Florida State's comeback attempt.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina and Florida State were very familiar with each other, having met both in the regular season and the ACC Championship. The Tar Heels played much better than they did in the last meeting though, and came away victorious in the trilogy bout.

The Tar Heels will return to the national championship game for the first time since 2019, in search of the program's 22nd NCAA Championship.

When do they play next?

UNC will go on to play the winner of Alabama and UCLA in Cary on Monday, Dec. 5 at 6:00 p.m.

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@dthsports |

Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.