CARY, N.C. — Both semifinal games of the NCAA Women's College Cup feature an upstart against a traditional power.
The question is whether Stanford and Notre Dame (which features five players from the KC metro area: Lauren Fowlkes, Ellen Jantsch, Molly Campbell and Elizabeth Wilson attended St. Teresa’s Academy and Mandy Laddish) will benefit from their experience in past national semifinals.
"You never know," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said Thursday. "For us, I think we come in with a level of confidence that we've been here and we know what to expect, because it can be a daunting prospect to come to the final four your first time. But in saying that, you never know with soccer on the day."
No. 4 seed Notre Dame (19-2-2) plays No. 3 seed Ohio State (17-4-2) in Friday's first semifinal, followed by No. 2 seed Boston College (17-6-1) against No. 1 seed Stanford (22-0-2). The winners meet Sunday for the championship.
The Fighting Irish are making their fifth straight and 12th overall appearance in the College Cup. The Cardinal are riding a 21-game winning streak, and are in the final four for the third consecutive season. They lost to North Carolina 1-0 in last year's championship game.
The Irish have outscored their opponents by a combined 13-1 in the first four rounds of the tournament. Coach Randy Waldrum moved Kansas City-native Fowlkes to forward from defense after Notre Dame's 2-0 loss to Connecticut in the Big East quarterfinals, and Fowlkes has delivered three goals and three assists in the NCAA tournament.
Fowlkes and her fellow seniors lost in the semifinals in 2007 and '09, and were beaten by North Carolina in the 2008 championship game, the last time the tournament was in this Raleigh suburb.
"I think that definitely drives you a lot," Fowlkes said. "I know for me, with it being my last shot in my senior year, it's definitely something where you want to go away on top."
The second semifinal features a rematch from the regular season. Stanford and Boston College played to a 1-all tie in the opener for both teams in August.