Santa Clara Broncos outlast Florida State Seminoles to win women's College Cup

CARY, N.C. -- Izzy D'Aquila made the clinching kick, and Santa Clara claimed the NCAA College Cup championship on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw with Florida State on Monday.

Two of Florida State's penalty attempts hit the post, opening the door for 11th-seeded Santa Clara, which last won a women's soccer national title in 2001.

Jenna Nighswonger scored for top-seeded Florida State in the 63rd minute, but Kelsey Turnbow tied it for Santa Clara in the 84th. The Broncos prevailed 4-1 on penalties.

"This is the moment we've been waiting for. It feels so surreal," Turnbow said. "We've been through so many challenges, with this COVID bubble, this past year. And so the hard work, sweat, tears and determination that our team has put in is finally paying off, and it feels so great to be a champion."

It was the third straight match to go to a shootout for the top-seeded Seminoles, who won national titles in 2014 and 2018. They defeated Virginia on penalties after a scoreless draw in the semifinals.

Santa Clara advanced to the title game on a 3-1 semifinal victory over second-seeded North Carolina.

The Broncos were making their first trip to the College Cup since 2004. The Broncos won the NCAA title in 2001 with a 1-0 victory over North Carolina.

Turnbow's shot for the Broncos in the 30th minute was deflected by freshman goalkeeper Cristina Roque as a light rain fell.

Nighswonger finally broke through in the 63rd minute with a blast from outside the box that hit the far post and glanced into the goal. It was her fifth goal of the season.

Turnbow scored the equalizer in the 84th minute when a defender slipped and gave her an opening for the goal, her 10th of the season.

"Honestly, that came from our team press, that was very impressive, and you could tell that they were feeling the heat in those last few moments of the game," Turnbow said.

It was the sixth time the national championship game had gone to overtime. Only twice has the title match gone to penalties.

"It was a year like no other, and we stayed together as a team. To even make it this far, to the NCAA finals, it's just crazy. I'm so proud of them," Seminoles midfielder Jaelin Howell said. "Obviously, having the possession like we did and going a goal up then having to go to PKs is a little heartbreaking."

This season was especially challenging for the Broncos because of the coronavirus restrictions in California's Santa Clara County. The team played just seven regular-season games this spring, after the West Coast Conference postponed the fall season.

The Seminoles secured a spot in the NCAA tournament last fall, when they won the ACC tournament title.

Former U.S. national team players Aly Wagner and Brandi Chastain, who both played for Santa Clara, were among the fans in the crowd in Cary. Chastain's husband is Jerry Smith, coach of Broncos.

Smith also was coach when Santa Clara won its previous title.

"I'm not a real emotional guy; I'm kind of even-keeled. You know, we won the national championship in 2001, and probably by about 8:30 I was in bed; and the next day, I started game-planning for the next year," Smith said. "But I'm really proud of my team."