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Spirit fall short in WUSA semifinals

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Beat were on the verge of another playoff loss. Conny Pohlers and Charmaine Hooper made sure that did not happen.

Pohlers scored in stoppage time to force overtime, and Hooper

scored in the fourth minute of the extra period to send the Atlanta

Beat to their second Founders Cup in three years with a 2-1 win

over San Diego on Sunday.

Pohlers beat Jenni Branam to a ball at the top of the goalie box

and tapped it in to send the match into overtime.

"I just told myself, 'Conny, this is your ball,''' Pohlers

said. "Then the ball hit the ground and I got to it.''

With the game tied, Atlanta coach Tom Stone felt the momentum

shift to his team.

"We'd just gutted San Diego with Conny's goal,'' Stone said.

"To have to come back out there for overtime after something like

that is very difficult.''

Hooper took a pass from Leslie Gaston and outran Joy Fawcett,

who injured her ankle on the play in which Pohlers scored. She then

beat Branam with a shot to the left side of the goal.

"I told myself I wouldn't shoot from too far out,'' Hooper

said. "Joy's very fast and a smart defender. When I beat her to

the ball, I was surprised I was so free.''

The second-seeded Beat will play fourth-seeded Washington in the

Founders Cup III on Aug. 24. The Beat lost in the 2001 Founders Cup

and in the 2002 semifinals.

Atlanta won two and tied one in the season series against the


Atlanta missed a chance at the early advantage when Hooper

missed outside the left post in the third minute after collecting

an entry pass from Maribel Dominguez.

San Diego appeared headed for the championship game in its own

stadium for most of the afternoon, taking the lead on a goal by Aly

Wagner in the 38th minute.

Wagner scored when she fielded a ball that bounded away from

Julie Fleeting and Nancy Augustyniak from a crossing pass by Kerry

Connors. Wagner beat Briana Scurry with a clean shot to the right

side of the goal.

"This is a tough one because you have yourself in a position to

play at home,'' Julie Foudy said. "We were tasting it right up

until that last minute.''

Dominguez had a chance to tie it in the 58th minute, but her

shot was cleared by Fawcett.