The Cowgirls advance on Friday defeating Illinois 1-0 and then faced ACC power Maryland Sunday afternoon for a trip to the Elite Eight of the NCAA College Cup. Following a team prayer that included the Cowgirls basketball team that attended the match and an exchange between the two teams, the Cowgirls used an early goal and plenty of defense to win 1-0 and advance to play either regional top seed Stanford, who defeated Boston College 2-0 later Sunday afternoon.
"I saw the basketball team over there before the game with our kids and that was a touching moment I think," said Cowgirls head coach Colin Carmichael. "Hopefully, for an hour and a half those kids could just be big Oklahoma State fans and enjoy it and not have to worry about what life has thrown at them. Tomorrow at the Memorial (service) that is for grieving and then we will have to refocus on getting ready for next week."
"With them coming out it shows they support us like we support them," said Franch, who said she knew they were coming and that she has some close friends on the basketball team. "For them coming out when they are grieving proves that. During our prayer we went over there with them and told them we were with them and that this was for them. It meant something to them and to us and maybe we've helped the school out."
The Cowgirls wasted no time in taking the lead over the visiting Terps when Colleen Dougherty took a pass from Kyndall Treadwell and fed super senior Annika Niemeier, who had her back to the goal.
"She showed her skill and turned the girl (Maryland defender) and got the shot and scored," said Dougherty, who had a great view of how her pass finished in the back of the net.
"I got a shot and it was fairly early in the game and I actually didn't expect it to go in because it had to go through all the legs (other players) on the way to the back post," said Niemeier, who missed most of last season with a knee injury and came back this year just for this experience. "The goalie didn't actually do anything. I don't know maybe she didn't think it was going in."
The Cowgirls 1-0 lead came just 3:56 into the game and they made it hold up in the 25-degree windchill and blustery conditions. There were a few nerve wracking moments, but the closest call came when Maryland was awarded a penalty kick in the box and Franch stopped Maryland forward Jasmyne Spencer's shot that was low and to Franch's left. The diving save was impressive.
"I'm not just saying this because she is sitting next to me and she is bigger and stronger than I am, but I haven't been around a keeper at any level as good as A.D. (Franch)," said Carmichael with a big smile on his face. "When I played in college with goal keepers that are big and physical and have different attributes, but they weren't as good. It is unbelievable what she means to this team."
A year ago the Cowgirls reached this point as a surprise team, but this season the Cowgirls were seeded to reach this point.
"I think you can see from the reaction after the game, you now last year these kids were in the crowd jumping around and up and down," said Carmichael. "This year I know we're happy but this is where we belong."
The Cowgirls have a school record 22 wins with the record 22-1-2 and for the second year in a row they are in the "Elite Eight" and now will travel next weekend to Palo Alto, California to face Stanford and shoot for the "Final Four."