In the sixth round of penalty kicks against No. 3 seed North Carolina, UCF women’s soccer senior goalkeeper Aline Reis (Campinas, Brazil) denied Ranee Premji to give the Knights (13-4-6) the 5-4 edge and their first berth in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament since 1987. It was also the first time UCF has advanced past the Tar Heels in postseason play.
The Knights will now travel to Winston Salem, N.C., to meet a familiar opponent in No. 1 seeded Wake Forest Friday night at 7 p.m. The two teams met back on Aug. 21 in Orlando with the Demon Deacons recording a 1-0 win.
UCF’s historic weekend-victories saw the program top two teams (Florida and UNC) that have combined for 22 national championships with the Tar Heels claiming two of the last three titles in 2008 and 2009.
“Obviously it was a very exciting match going to PKs. I think we gave the crowd a lot to cheer for and I couldn’t be prouder of our girls,” UCF head coach Amanda Cromwell said after the match. “They fought so hard. To give a goal up in the last five minutes was tough and a lot of teams I think would’ve crumbled mentally from that. We stood strong and held them off.
“UNC is a great team with a great tradition with plenty of attacking players and a lot of athleticism,” Cromwell added. “We came out strong and got the important goal from Tina (Kristina Trujic). I can’t say enough about Aline in goal in both games. (She was) huge with two saves in PKs and that is why we are going on.”
After two scoreless overtime sessions with the match tied at 1-1, five Knights came through with penalty kick scores, including Bianca Joswiak’s (Berlin, Germany) deciding point in the sixth round. Reis closed out the match with two diving saves on the second and sixth UNC attempts.
“I tried to read her, but I don’t know, I just trusted,” Reis said of her last save on the sixth PK against Premji. “Something inside of me told me to jump there. It happened so fast and I am so happy right now that I can’t describe it. Not only because of the victory, but just playing UNC was a great honor and the entire environment with all the fans and alumni. This is one of the greatest soccer moments of my life.”
After a scoreless first half, UCF was able to jump on the board first in the 71-minute mark. The Knights struck on an 18-yard rocket shot by sophomore Kristina Trujic (Venice, Fla.) to the top right corner of the goal past UNC’s Anna Sieloff. The second score of the weekend by Trujic was her fourth of the season as Joswiak also earned her third assist of 2011 on the play.
UNC would answer back 14 minutes later as Dunn kicked a Courtney Jones feed inside the box past the outstretched arms of Reis to tie up the match. It was Dunn’s third goal of the season and gave Jones her team-leading 20th point of the year.
First-half action between the two squads was relatively quiet as each team was only able to place one shot on goal in the first 45 minutes of play. Freshman Madison Barney took the first stab in the match at the 18:57 mark.
UNC’s Premji took a shot at the top of the UCF box for the Tar Heels’ best opportunity, but the crossbar denied her on the attempt. Although she only faced three shots in the half, Reis stayed plenty active, leaping through the air to make several stops on UNC corner kicks.
It was the sixth meeting between the two squads in the NCAA Tournament with the last meeting taking place in 1999. Under Cromwell’s guidance, the Knights have advanced to the postseason five-straight times, with 2011 being the furthest they have marched since she took over 13 years ago.