The ties run deep between the four teams left in the 2012 women’s college soccer season.
The familiarity from team to team at this year’s College Cup has been one of the underlying themes in much of the buildup to the major event, which kicks off from Torero Stadium on the University of San Diego campus on Friday at 5:30 p.m. (PT) when Penn State takes on Florida State.
“I was at College Cup with them in 2005 and it seems like a million years ago,” Nittany Lions head coach Erica Walsh said during Thursday’s press conference. “I think it is the same for Erin [McNulty].”
Walsh’s goalkeeper Erin McNulty transferred to Penn State in 2011 after three seasons with the Seminoles.
“We are here and we are with this program,” Walsh continued. “Erin [McNulty] would do anything for these players and this university. She has jumped in with both feet.”
Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian did not see much advantage in the familiarity that he has with McNulty and Walsh in the approach to Thursday’s game.
“As well as I know Erica and Erin, we know the ACC programs a lot better than we know Penn State,” Krikorian said. “Certainly, Erica and I shared some time together for a couple of years, and for me, it was a fantastic opportunity to work with her.
“And all of us appreciate the hard work that Erin [McNulty] put in while playing for us and we are thrilled for her to be playing her at College Cup. But I don’t think there is any big advantages or disadvantages [with our knowledge of each other].”
The appearance at College Cup marks the second consecutive trip for the Seminoles and the sixth College Cup all-time for the program. However, Florida State has only won one game in those five previous showings.
“This group we have this year is the most mature,” Krikorian said about the differences with this team compared to the previous appearances at this stage. “It is hard to say when you go from one group to the next, but I know we have better quality senior leadership than we have ever had before and hopefully that translates into a good performance tomorrow night.”
Beyond the familiar bonds from previous stops, there is some history between the players as Penn State star striker Maya Hayes played alongside Florida State defender Kassey Kallman with the U.S. U20 Women’s National Team at the World Cup in Japan.
Hayes laughed off any trash talk between her and her national team teammates.
“We are just excited to see each other more than anything,” Hayes said.
The North Carolina duo of Crystal Dunn and Kealia Ohai were a bit more boisterous about the pregame chatter.
“There is some trash talk,” Ohai said with a laugh. “It adds something special [to play against the other members of the U.S. U20 Women’s World Cup Championship side]. It is so fun.”
The Tar Heels take on Stanford in the nightcap on Friday, which is slated to kick off at 8:00 p.m. (PT). North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance revealed on Thursday that he was courted by Stanford to take over that program in the early 1990s.
“My mother, who is a native North Carolinian, called me up while I was on this visit and said, ‘If you go to Stanford, I am putting my head in an oven,” Dorrance joked. “Rodin Sculpture Garden in the middle of campus? Are you freaking kidding me?
“There has to be rules against the advantages that schools like Stanford have against the rest of us. I feel like all of us that play against them should start the game a goal up because of the advantages that they have. For all of you guys in the NCAA that are sitting out there, consider that as an option.”
Yet, North Carolina and Stanford will start on level terms come Friday night where the Cardinal hope to end an 11-game winless streak against the Heels in the quest to repeat as National Champions.
Dorrance saw no benefit to holding the lengthy winning streak over the Pac-12 Champions.
“The streaks are relatively irrelevant,” Dorrance said. “I have a relief when a streak is broken. You want the players to come into the event with the freedom to express themselves.”