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Sunday November 29, 1998Florida defeats Penn State 3-1, goes to Final Four

Gainesville, FL

It’s on to the NCAA Final Four for the University of Florida women’s soccer team. The No. 2 seeded Gators (24-1) used a fierce attack and a stifling defense in the second half to beat No. 7 seed Penn State 3-1 Sunday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament at Percy Beard Stadium before a crowd of 2,057.

Florida’s second-half run almost came too late after it fell behind early on a goal by Penn State’s Kelly Convey in the 23rd minute, and was outplayed by the Nittany Lions (21-4-1) for most of the first half.

"We really felt like we were on the ropes in the first half," Florida head coach Becky Burleigh said, who becomes only the second female coach to lead her team to the NCAA semifinals. "To score right before halftime was key."

The Gators got the much-needed goal with six minutes remaining in the first half. Florida’s Sarah Yohe, who has been sidelined with a hip flexor injury since UF’s Nov. 1 match with Penn State, headed a deep cross from Keisha Bell past PSU goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk.

The momentum of the goal ignited Florida’s second half run. UF outshot the Nittany Lions 14-2 in the second half and controlled the flow of action.

Senior midfielder Kerri Doran broke the 1-1 halftime tie four minutes into the second half by blasting a shot from a cross from Abby Wambach into the PSU net.

"The majority of our attack and the quality of our attack came from Kerri Doran," Burleigh said. "She served some great balls in there and was able to finish one of the goals as well."

Senior midfielder Katie Tullis scored to put the match out of reach with less than four minutes to play. She received a ricocheted Danielle Fotopoulos’ shot and placed it over the head of a drawn out Oleksiuk for the final goal.

The match marked the last time Florida’s senior class will play at Percy Beard Stadium. Florida, in only its fourth year of varsity play, becomes the youngest program to advance to the NCAA semifinals this decade. Duke qualified for the 1992 NCAA Final Four in its fifth season.

"This was the last time we were going to play out on that field, and we didn’t want to come out with anything less than a victory," senior All-American Erin Baxter said. "If you are going to go and play your last home game, it might as well be to get to the Final Four."

Florida’s Meredith Flaherty recorded her postseason high of seven saves in the match, six of them in the first half to keep Florida in the match.

"Our goal is to win the national championship," said Flaherty, the senior transfer from Clemson. "But you have to get to the Final Four in order to do that."

Florida will now advance to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Final Four, where it will take on Santa Clara (22-0-1) on Friday in Greensboro, N.C., at 2 p.m. Defending NCAA champion North Carolina meets Portland in Friday’s second semifinal match at 4:30 p.m. Both NCAA semifinal matches will be shown live on ESPN2. The Broncos are the tournament’s No. 3 seed and have not been scored upon in 16 consecutive matches.

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