CARY – UCLA and Florida State are old hands at this. The schools have appeared more times at the NCAA Women’s College Cup than anyone else.
One of them will break through for its first national title today when the Bruins (21-1-3) and Seminoles (23-1-3) meet.
“This means so much to us and so much to our program, especially because we’ve never won a national championship for women’s soccer at our school,” UCLA defender Ally Courtnall said. “... We want to get that one time for our school.”
The Bruins bring a 20-game unbeaten streak and the nation’s top scoring defense into their first appearance in the championship game since 2005.
UCLA, which returned to the College Cup for the first time since a seven-year streak from 2003-09, is making its fourth appearance in the title game.
The Bruins advanced on penalty kicks after playing No. 1 overall seed Virginia to a 1-1 tie Friday.
“One of the things I said to them in pregame is that not only does this team deserve to win a national championship, but I think this program deserves to win a national championship,” UCLA coach Amanda Cromwell said. “I think these girls have that feeling. They’re playing for more than just themselves.”
While the Bruins have made eight appearances in the College Cup since 2003, Florida State is right behind them with seven trips to the final four during that span.
Florida State’s lost in the semifinals in 2011 and 2012 and fell to Southern California 2-0 in 2007 in its only previous championship game.
“This is a position that we’ve been in before,” Florida State goalkeeper Kelsey Wys said. “But I think that we have a great coaching staff, and they put in the time and get us prepared. So I think that once we have our game plan ahead of us, if we can execute our game plan, we’ll be all right.”
Florida State reached the title game with a 3-2 victory against ACC rival Virginia Tech on Friday. Coach Mark Krikorian wants his team to balance the urgency of wanting to hoist the crown with patience.
“My hope is that we’re going to be able to vary our attack a little bit and sometimes use the athletic quality to run at their back line and put them under that pressure but also to step on the ball and maybe slow the game a little bit and dictate the tempo a little bit more,” Krikorian said.
Florida State and UCLA have met just one time before, a 4-0 victory for the Bruins in the 2005 College Cup semifinals, but they know each other well.
Cromwell, in her first season at UCLA, coached against the Seminoles regularly during her 14-year tenure at Central Florida. UCLA assistant Joshua Walters was Florida State’s director of soccer operations from 2010-12.
“We’re a different team this year,” Krikorian said. “UCLA was a different team last year than they are this year. But what I’m sure of is that we will do all of our homework, and we will prepare our group properly.”