The magic carpet ride for the Washington State women’s soccer team continued Friday.
Sophomore defender Mykiaa Minniss converted her first goal of the season off a corner kick more than 5½ minutes into extra time as the unranked Cougars beat No. 5 South Carolina 1-0 in an NCAA tournament fourth-round match at Stone Stadium.
With the victory, Washington State (16-6-1) for the first time will play in the Women’s College Cup. The Cougars will play in the first of two national semifinal games at 4 p.m. next Friday against second-ranked North Carolina at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. The Tar Heels (23-1-1), the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion, advanced with a 3-2 victory at home against No. 9 USC.
“It means a lot to me,” WSU coach Todd Shulenberger said. “It’s my fifth year here with my staff and these young ladies that we brought here. We’re a unique style, we’re a different style, we’re a fun style, and we’re hard to play against. This team believed all along this year that we had something special, and as the year grew on in the unbelievable conference we play in, it absolutely prepared us for this moment. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but we’re extremely ecstatic to go to San Jose.”
South Carolina coach Shelley Smith gave credit to the Cougars in defeat.
“Congratulations to Washington State on a great game,” Smith said. “Both teams played well, battled it out. That’s what you’re going to find this time of year — great college soccer. Someone had to win tonight and unfortunately, we were on the losing end of things, but I could not be prouder of this team and the effort they showed. One ball ended up going in tonight and it just wasn’t on our winning side of things.”
It is the first time that Washington State has beaten South Carolina (19-2-3), which saw a 17-match unbeaten streak come to an end. The Cougars also were the first team to score a goal against the Gamecocks since they tied Florida 1-1 on Oct. 27 at Gainesville.
The two teams were deadlocked after a 90-minute defensive struggle which saw South Carolina (19-2-3) outshoot Washington State 14-12. Neither team recorded a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, but the Cougars were pressing forward most of the second half as they gave goaltender Mikayla Krzeczowski a bit of a workout.
In the first two minutes of the overtime period, Morgan Weaver and Makamae Gomera-Stevens had shots from long distance that didn’t make it on goal, but it was an effort to attempt to flip the field in Washington State’s favor.
It worked. After South Carolina committed a foul in their defensive end, the Cougars were awarded a corner kick. Junior defender Hanna Goff lofted her kick into the middle of the box, where Gamecocks senior midfielder Rebecca Koch headed the ball. Unfortunately for Koch, she headed the ball backward right toward Minniss, who had snuck her way in behind the defense. The ball landed perfectly at the foot of Minniss near the back post, and she put the shot home.
“I usually have to stay back to defend and I went to Todd and I was like ,‘Let me go, let me go,’ and he was like ‘Yeah, go ahead,’” Minniss said. “I just came in super late so they didn’t see me. As soon as the ball came to me, all that was running through my head was like, ‘Oh you got this, oh you got this’ and then it went in and everybody was chasing me. I was like ‘Oh gosh, I can’t believe I just did that.’”
Minniss is the 12th different WSU player to score a goal this year and the 10th different Cougar to convert a game-winning shot.
Ella Dederick finished with two saves to pick up her 29th career shutout and extend her program record for victories to 53.
“It’s so awesome,” Dederick said. “I’m just so proud of my team. We’ve overcome so much this whole entire year. We love being an underdog, you know, everyone doubts us and we prove them wrong.”
OF NOTE — Washington State is just the fourth team since 2007 to make the College Cup after earning a berth in the Elite Eight for the first time in its history. ... The Cougars are now 8-10-4 all-time in the NCAA tournament.
Washington State 0 0 1 — 1
South Carolina 0 0 0 — 0
WSU — Mykiaa Minnis (Hanna Goff), 96th.
Shots — Washington State 15, South Carolina 15.
Saves — Washington State: Ella Dederick, 2. South Carolina: Mikalya Krzeczowski, 3.