Senior goalkeeper Samantha Leshnak equaled a career high with six saves and then went on to save two more shots in a penalty kick shootout as the third-ranked Carolina women’s soccer team advanced to the 2018 NCAA College Cup, downing fourth-ranked UCLA 4-2 in penalty kicks after the teams tied 2-2 through 110 minutes of regulation and overtime.
The NCAA quarterfinal game was played before an overflow crowd of 904 fans at WakeMed Soccer Park’s Koka Booth Stadium.
North Carolina is now 20-3-2 on the season and will advance to play second-ranked and undefeated Georgetown Friday at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in the 2018 NCAA College Cup semifinals. All four of the #1 seeds have advanced to the College Cup, with Carolina meeting Georgetown at 5 p.m. Friday and defending national champion Stanford playing Florida State at 7:30 p.m. Friday in national semifinal meetings. UCLA saw its season end with a record of 17-3-2.
Goals by Julia Ashley in the third minute and Dorian Bailey in the 53rd minute put the Tar Heels up 2-0 in the match before UCLA’s Hallie Mace scored a pair of goals just 53 seconds apart to tie the game at 2-2 with 32:57 left in regulation.
Neither team was able to score again before the match went to penalty kicks where Tar Heels Annie Kingman, Taylor Otto, Rachel Jones and Claudia Dickey all made their kicks from the mark while Leshnak saved penalty kicks by Julia Hernandez and Canadian National Team member Jessie Fleming in the third and fourth rounds.
Leshnak’s heroics made her only the third goalkeeper in Carolina history to prevail in a penalty kick shootout as Carolina is now 3-5 all-time in shootouts. Previous Carolina goalkeepers to win penalty kick shootouts were Ashlyn Harris in the ACC Tournament semifinals against Virginia in 2007 and Bryane Heaberlin in the third round of the NCAA Tournament against Baylor in 2012.
Leshnak’s six official saves in the game matched her career high of six set against Duke on Aug. 18, 2017, in a 2-1 overtime win at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Carolina’s trip to this week’s College Cup will be the 28th in school history and the third in this decade (2012, 2016, 2018). Carolina is now 130-13-4 all-time in NCAA matches dating to the first tournament in 1982.
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