Fury semi-happy at last

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:32 PM ET

Fury 2, Krush (2OT) 1, W-League semi-final

Finally, they're over the semi-final hump.

Now the Ottawa Fury can get on with the business of winning its first W-League soccer championship.

On a steamy night in Princeton, N.J., the Fury outlasted the Central Florida Krush 2-1 in a bruising semi-final match at the North American finals last night.

Rhian Wilkinson's second goal of the match in the 110th minute allowed the Fury to earn its first trip to the title game in three tries.

''Third time lucky,'' said Fury owner/CEO John Pugh after the emotional triumph at Mercer Community College. ''This is huge, for a team from Ottawa to get to the final. It's tremendous.''

The Fury lost in the semi-finals at the Final Four tourney in 2003 and 2004. Not this year, though. It's a happy Fury side that will savour a day off today before tomorrow night's championship match vs. the host New Jersey Wildcats (7 p.m., Fox Sports World Canada).

''We're exhausted, but we're all excited,'' said Wilkinson, 23, a Canadian national teamer from Baie d'Urfe, Que. ''When you've got nothing left and you walk off the field and you've got the victory, there's no feeling like it.''

The expansion Krush made the Fury work for it. Scottish international Rhonda Jones headed home a corner from Alicia Milyak in the 36th minute, giving fourth-seeded Central Florida a 1-0 lead it took to the intermission. But the No. 1-ranked Fury came out a different side in the second half.

''We didn't play well in the first half ... we were playing terrible soccer,'' Wilkinson said. ''We knew we had many goals in us, we just had to get them out.''

Like a good former Tennessee Volunteer, Wilkinson stepped to the forefront. The W-League scoring champ brilliantly converted a feed from Carmelina Moscato for the equalizer in the 56th minute.

After that, the Fury took charge of the match, and nearly ended it in the dying minutes of regulation. Both Amy Vermeulen and W-League all-star Kelly Parker had close calls as regulation time wound down.

AVOIDED CRUSHER

Wilkinson converted Diana Matheson's setup to break the deadlock in the second of two 15-minute overtimes. That avoided the dreaded penalty kicks -- and another semi-final crusher.

''We put a lot of pressure on ourselves (to reach the final),'' said Wilkinson. ''Finally, we wanted to play Fury soccer. We're happy that we did.''

Today's day off will be most welcome for defender Robyn Gayle, who left with a right ankle injury.

''We'll hope to patch her up in 36 hours,'' said a hopeful Pugh. ''We've got a few walking wounded, but let me tell you, they're happy walking wounded right now.''

New Jersey beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 in the other semi.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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