GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Sophomore Alison Lu scored in the 85th minute Friday to lift the Ephs in the national title game for the third time in four years with a 1-0 win over previously unbeaten Hardin Simmons at the University of North Carolina Greensboro's Soccer Stadium.
"I took a first shot, it got blocked and then it came right back,” Lu said. “I just figured I'd shoot it again. I pretty much willed that ball in I would say.”
Williams (21-1-1) advances to Saturday's national championship game versus the University of Chicago (22-1-0) at 2:30 p.m.
"To push through today and have one more game tomorrow is a great, incredible feeling," Eph junior Sarah Hollinger said. "I know we're all excited about what's to come."
Hardin Simmons led the nation in goal scoring (5.14 per game) and shots on goal per game (13), but Friday the Ephs held the Cowgirls without a shot in the first half and allowed only two shots on goal in the game. HSU also had 43 goals off set pieces during the season, but only had thee corners in Friday's semifinal.
"Going into the game, we wanted to try to defend as high up as possible so they couldn't even get into our half," freshman midfielder Victoria Laino said. "I think we did a really good job collectively at that. Obviously the back line is amazing and always does a good job 1 v. 1 defending, but I think the team did really well starting up with the forwards as far as not letting them get into a rhythm."
Williams outshot the Cowgirls 17-4 in the contest, forcing HSU keeper Caitlin Christiansen to come up with nine saves. After creating six shots in the opening 45 minutes while limiting HSU to none, the Ephs saw momentum switch to HSU -- if only for a moment -- when the Cowgirls created their first corner opportunity in the 50th minute.
"Our goal today was to defend everyone on the same page, pressing high, I thought we did a great job of it,” Williams coach Michelyne Pinard said. “I just thought we had numbers around the ball, I just thought it was an incredible, collective effort.
"Holding my breath the entire second half. They're incredibly organized and they put so many numbers behind the ball and do such a good job collectively defensively, that we really needed to switch the point of attack quickly and needed to press high. And we needed, honestly, a little luck today. When you put that many people inside the 18, the ball has to bounce exactly the right way some times. Luckily it bounced right on to Alison Lu's foot and she put it away as she has so many times.
"We're just thrilled to be playing one more game together. This team is a joy to coach and I can't wait to see them play against a team like Chicago who has a ton of attacking presence. It's going to be an 18-to-18 type of game and we're ready and excited. I can't wait to see this team play one more time."
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