After the third-seeded Hoyas defeated No. 7 Stanford, 2-0, to reach the final for the second time, the top-seeded Cavaliers ousted No. 4 Wake Forest, 2-1, to continue their bid for a third national title in 10 years and eighth overall.
They will collide here Sunday at 6 p.m. — the first time in the NCAA tournament’s 60-year history that both finalists have come from the soccer-rich D.C. region.
The semifinal stars were Sean Zawadzki, Georgetown’s 5-foot-9, 145-pound midfielder, who scored a wonder goal in the fourth minute and set up the second; and Daryl Dike, Virginia’s 6-2, 220-pound striker, who notched two goals in a four-minute span of the first half.
Virginia’s Colin Shutler also played a major part, making a season-high seven saves, six in the second half, including a gem against Machop Chol in the 89th minute.
The Big East champion Hoyas (19-1-3) are unbeaten in 16 straight. The ACC champion Cavaliers (21-1-1) have won 10 in a row.
“The two best teams all season get to meet in the College Cup [final], which I think is great for college soccer,” Wake Forest Coach Bobby Muuss said. “I think some really good [soccer] will be on display.”
The weather did not allow for the finest play Friday. Stadium crews armed with squeegees and blowers were forced into action before the first semifinal, at halftimes and between matches. It did little good as the heavy rain was unrelenting.
Players navigated the sloppy conditions better than expected, but the saturated turf often stopped the ball in its tracks, particularly at one end.
There were no such issues for Zawadzki in the fourth minute: His bid took flight and sizzled through the curtain of rain.
Zach Riviere crossed from the left side. Stanford’s Keegan Tingey headed it out of the penalty area but into the path of Zawadzki, who took a few steps and met the ball with a booming, right-footed volley from 25 yards.
The shot was equipped with power, accuracy and a slight swerve, bending from goalkeeper Andrew Thomas, whose full extension was not enough to prevent it from hitting the left side of the net.
“It fell right to me, and I was like, ‘Might as well shoot it,’ ” said Zawadzki, a sophomore from the Columbus Crew’s youth academy. “Good thing I did. It’s probably the cleanest I have ever hit a ball.”
The goal swung the match in sudden fashion.
“It took a moment of brilliance from Sean to really set the game in our favor,” Coach Brian Wiese said. “Being up 1-0 in a game with these kinds of conditions is invaluable.”
Plenty of time remained, but to Cardinal Coach Jeremy Gunn, who oversaw three straight national titles from 2015 to 2017, that goal changed everything.
“What a strike,” he said. “Look: When you show up to a game, you’re thinking about all the things. You’ve got all the crap the coach is telling you. You are just thinking about that ball dropping to you like that. Nine times out of 10 you’re having to pick it out of the trees.”
The Hoyas’ victory was about more than that goal, though. They were superior throughout, and after having a goal rightly disallowed by an offside call and not gaining a man advantage on a clear red-card infraction on a Stanford defender, the Hoyas stretched the lead in the 67th minute.
Zawadzki’s deflected cross caromed off a defender, allowing reserve Foster McCune (St. Albans) to head in from close range.
“In a game like that, it doesn’t have to be the prettiest goal in the world,” McCune said. “Anything to get us on to Sunday is worthwhile.”
The Hoyas managed the second half almost perfectly, not committing any terrible mistakes against the Cardinal (14-3-5) and registering their 13th shutout.
“We’re a group of guys that wants it so much,” Zawadzki said. “The history of this program, we’ve gone through a lot. Recently we’ve been getting toward the top, getting toward the top, getting toward the top. We want it so bad.”
In the second game, the Cavaliers went ahead in the 19th minute. Andreas Ueland served a 60-yard pass ahead of Dike, who followed the ball into the penalty area before drilling an acutely angled eight-yarder with breathtaking power over goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg.
“Gives you an insight to the quality Daryl has," teammate Joe Bell said. "How many people in college soccer are going to score from there?”
The goal ended a six-game scoreless streak for the Oklahoma native.
“I really did feel like goals were coming,” Virginia Coach George Gelnovatch said. “It was his time.”
Four minutes later, Dike rose in the six-yard box to head in Daniel Steedman’s corner kick for his ninth goal of the year.
Shutler kept the Demon Deacons (16-5-2) at bay in a busy second half, but in the 79th minute, Bruno Lapa beat him with a penalty kick — just the 10th goal conceded by Virginia this year. After one last scare, the Cavaliers were headed to the program’s ninth final since 1989.