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Wake, Duke, FSU and Stanford play for College Cup

KENNESAW -- There will be more than a little familiarity at the Women's College Cup this weekend and the NCAA's final four Division I women's soccer teams have different feelings about their relationships with one another.

Stanford (23-0-1), which finished the regular season ranked No. 1, is in the national semifinals for the fourth straight year, while Wake Forest, Duke and Florida State have seen plenty of each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The ACC coaches and players beam about their conference, and Wake head coach Tony da Luz even said that having already split two games with Duke makes preparation easier and "takes a little bit of the edge off" of tonight's second semifinal matchup against Duke.

On the flip side, while preparing for the first semifinal at KSU Soccer Stadium north of Atlanta, FSU coach Dave Krikorian would rather forget his team's 5-0 loss at Stanford in last season's NCAA quarterfinals. The Seminoles (18-6-1) have never allowed more goals in their 45 other NCAA tournament games.

"The main focus we have is on the last three or four games (for scouting purposes)," Krikorkian said. "We're a lot different team (than last year) .... and the game is here as opposed to there."

Florida State's all-ACC midfielder Tori Huster says she's "kind of pushed that (game) out of my mind."

Stanford hasn't changed much.

The Cardinal have four seniors -- Camille Levin, Teresa Noyola, Lindsay Taylor and Kristy Zurmuhlen -- who have known nothing but final fours, and they haven't lost this season. The blemish on their record came in a scoreless tie at Maryland in August.

Stanford, though, wants to change something this weekend. After falling 1-0 in the previous two title games -- to Notre Dame last season and North Carolina in 2009 -- the Cardinal want to win their first NCAA title.

"Stanford's athletic program has had so much success ... but for us to get this program's first championship would be a great accomplishment," said Levin, a quick utility player who works all over the field. "We all want to bring home championships."

Taylor kept alive the dream last week, when the quick-strike forward's 20th goal of the season clinched a 2-1 overtime win over Oklahoma State.

"I think we have taken our experience of the last couple years and losing into this season," said Taylor.

This is the first time that the No. 1 seed from all four brackets has made it to the national semis, and FSU's fifth College Cup appearance would be the closest thing to a surprise. The Seminoles lost five of seven matches at midseason, all to ranked teams within the ACC.

They've gone 9-0-1 since, and redshirt junior forward Tiffany McCarty has led the way with 18 goals and added six assists this season. FSU's tie was actually a 3-1 win on penalty kicks over Wake Forest for the ACC title on Nov. 6.

McCarty and fellow redshirt forward Jessica Price missed the Stanford game last season because of injuries.

Similarly, Wake sophomore forward Katie Stengel -- an Under-20 national team candidate with a school-record 19 goals and eight assists for a Wake-record 46 points -- missed a 2-0 loss to Duke on Oct. 20.

The Demon Deacons (18-3-4) play ball-control up front, often giving time for their midfield and flanks to catch up and join the attack. Stengel was back for Wake's 2-1 win over Duke (21-3-1) in the ACC tournament on Nov. 4.

This is the first Cup visit in school history for the Deacons, who can be difficult to mark when Stengel is healthy alongside fellow sophomore forward Rachel Nuzzolese, who has 15 points in eight postseason games.

In the back, sophomore goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe has a school-record 14 shutouts.

"(Stengel) is a sniper in the box and doesn't need a high number of opportunities to score," said Duke coach Robbie Church, whose team is making its second Cup appearance. "She ... will bury her chances. She can finish right-footed or left-footed."