By R.L. Bynum
CARY — Sixteen seconds away from ending a 10-year national championship drought, it was heartbreak for North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, which led by two goals through 79 minutes but couldn’t hold on.
No. 1-ranked UCLA scored in the 107th minute on a goal by Maricarmen Reyes as the Bruins rallied for a 3–2 double-overtime victory over the No. 2 Tar Heels and their second NCAA title on a Monday night that was tinged with controversy.
“They’re athletic, and it was a war for us to try to take them out,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. “I’m proud of my kids. We had a great year. Proud of the way we fought today. I’m excited for our future.”
The Tar Heels (20–5–1) made it to the title game without their best midfielder, Sam Meza, their best defender, Maycee Bell, and two other defenders lost to injury earlier in the season. A resilient team all season, UNC couldn’t hold off the tough Bruins (22–2–1) on a chilly evening before 9,531 fans.
“I think it was one of the greatest finals I’ve personally ever been involved with,” said Dorrance, coaching in his 27th NCAA final, noting the achievement of getting this far without All-Americans Bell and Meza. “Sixteen seconds to glory.”
The Bruins tied it with 16 seconds left in regulation when Reilyn Turner deflected in Ally Lemos’ corner kick in inches away from the goal line, but also appeared to foul UNC goalie Emmie Allen in the process. The play wasn’t even reviewed.
“Those last 16 seconds were a blur,” said Avery Patterson, who scored both of UNC’s goals. “It was a good corner kick, obviously, but I thought it was over the bar at first. It’s something that I’m still kind of recovering from, just kind of the shock of it all.”
Dorrance said he didn’t get a good look at the play and offered no opinion about whether there was a foul.
“I don’t think that there’s any way to explain this feeling, obviously the devastation,” Patterson said. “I did not play with regret and I don’t think any of our girls did today. So I wouldn’t say that I have any regret right now. But I just feel horrible for our seniors and just to be able to taste that national championship with 16 seconds left. It’s something that’s gonna be hard to come back from.”
Patterson headed in a cross from Emily Moxley just in front of the goal in the 59th minute and knocked in a pass from Emily Colton in the 75th minute to give UNC a 2–0 lead after a scoreless first half.
UCLA finally got to Allen in the 80th minute when Lexi Wright knocked in a rebound for the Bruins’ first goal in 120 minutes against her.
At that point, Dorrance sensed a panic in his team.
“When you get up two, you have a tendency as a team to be more conservative, which is logical,” Dorrance said. “We’re clearing balls out when there’s no pressure on the ball. And I’m not saying we did that every single time but we’re just sort of hyper, terrified with a lack of composure. We’ve got some kids on the field that are young, and it’s harder for them in these environments. But I think that sort of panic is what made it difficult for us to hold on to that lead.”
Patterson was fighting back emotions for coming 16 seconds short but reveled in the trip to get to the championship game.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Patterson said. “It’s why I came to Carolina to compete in competitions like we competed in tonight. This season as a whole, I’m just very thankful for Anson giving me the opportunity to do what I love with all my best friends.”
Allen, who only played the first half of the 2–1 regular-season loss to the Bruins and shut them out, was unyielding until the last 11 minutes of regulation and overtimes, but made a big save six minutes into the first overtime and finished with eight.
Allen pushed a Wright shot narrowly wide right in the 98th minute and weathered corners in the 100th and 104th minutes. On the latter, Turner’s shot straddled the goal line and didn’t go in. It was reviewed, but called no goal.
“I’m just amazed by this team and the grit that they show and the character they showed today,” said first-year UCLA coach Margueritte Aozasa. “I even had my doubts at 2–0, but quite honestly no one on the field did and they just found a way.”
UNC dominated the first half but only had a 5–3 shots advantage even though it possessed the ball 63% of the time but couldn’t finish their chances. A Moxley shot that went off of Libby Moore’s toe was Carolina’s best first-half chance in the 42nd minute.
NOTES — UCLA became the first women’s soccer program in NCAA history to win the title with a first-year head coach. … UCLA outshot Carolina 17–8 after halftime. … This was UNC’s 27th NCAA championship game appearance (and 28th national final, including AIAW) and third in the last five years. … Carolina outscored its opponents in the NCAA tournament 18–8. … This was the second meeting of the season after the Bruins rallied for a 2–1 win in Chapel Hill on Sept. 4. … The win was only UCLA’s third in 16 meetings, with two coming this season. UNC still leads the all-time series 11–3–2. … The Tar Heels fell to 21–6 in NCAA finals and 22–6 in all national finals (including AIAW). … Carolina fell to 8–3 in College Cup games and 3–3 in NCAA finals played in Cary.
No. 1 UCLA 3, No. 2 UNC 2, 2 OTs
UNC in national finals
|2022||UCLA (22–2–1)||3–2, 2 OTs||Carolina||Cary|
|2019||Stanford (24–1–0)||0-0 |
(2 OTs, PKs)
|Carolina||San Jose, Calif.|
|2018||Florida State (20–4–3)||1-0||Carolina||Cary|
|2012||Carolina (15–5–3)||4-1||Penn State||San Diego, Calif.|
|2009||Carolina (23–3–1)||1-0||Stanford||College Station, Texas|
|2008||Carolina (25–1–2)||2-1||Notre Dame||Cary|
|2006||Carolina (27–1)||2-1||Notre Dame||Cary|
|2001||Santa Clara (23–2)||1-0||Carolina||Dallas|
|2000||Carolina (21–3)||2-1||UCLA||San Jose,Calif.|
|1999||Carolina (24–2)||2-0||Notre Dame||San Jose, Calif.|
|1996||Carolina (25-1)||1-0 (2 ot)||Notre Dame||Santa Clara, Calif.|
|1994||Carolina (25–1–1)||5-0||Notre Dame||Portland, Ore.|
|1993||Carolina (23–0)||6-0||George Mason||Chapel Hill|
|1992||Carolina (25–0)||9-1||Duke||Chapel Hill|
|1991||Carolina (25–0)||3-1||Wisconsin||Chapel Hill|
|1990||Carolina (24–0)||6-0||Connecticut||Chapel Hill|
|1989||Carolina (24–0–1)||2-0||Colorado College||Raleigh|
|1988||Carolina (18–0–3)||4-1||N.C. State||Chapel Hill|
|1987||Carolina (23–0–1)||1-0||Massachusetts||Amhurst, Mass.|
|1986||Carolina (24–0–1)||2-0||Colorado College||Fairfax, Va.|
|1985||G. Mason (18–2–1)||2-0||Carolina||George Mason|
|1984||Carolina (24–0–1)||2-0||Connecticut||Fairfax, Va.|
|1983||Carolina (19–1)||4-0||George Mason||Orlando|
|1982||Carolina (19–2)||2-0||Central Florida||Orlando|
|1981||X — Carolina (23–0)||1-0||Central Florida||Chapel Hill|
|25||Thursday||W, 2–0||Texas||Austin, Texas||3–0–0|
|28||Sunday||W, 6–0||Baylor||Austin, Texas||4–0–0|
|1||Thursday||W, 3–1||Missouri||Columbia, Mo.||5–0–0|
|4||Sunday||L, 2–1||No. 1 UCLA||Home||5–1–0|
|8||Thursday||W, 3–0||X-No. 8 Duke||Durham||6–1–0|
|11||Sunday||W, 2–1||Central Florida||Home||7–1–0|
|17||Saturday||L, 3–2||No. 11 Virginia||Home||7–2–0,|
|22||Thursday||W, 1–0||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||8–2–0,|
|25||Sunday||W, 3–0||Boston College||Home||9–2–0,|
|1||Saturday||L, 2–1||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||9–3–0,|
|6||Thursday||W, 4–0||No. 19 Pittsburgh||Home||10–3–0,|
|9||Sunday||W, 2–0||N.C. State||Home||11–3–0,|
|14||Friday||W, 1–0||Wake Forest||Home||12–3–0,|
|20||Thursday||W, 2–1||No. 5 |
|23||Sunday||W, 4–0||Miami||Coral Gables, Fla.||14–3–0,|
|27||Thursday||W, 1–0||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||15–3–0,|
|3||Thursday||T, 0–0, 2 OTs (UNC advances 7–6 on PKs)||Semifinal vs. |
No. 8 Duke
|6||Sunday||L, 2–1||Final vs. No. 5 Florida State||Cary||15–4–1|
|12||Saturday||W, 5–0||First round: |
|17||Thursday||W, 3–1||Second round: Georgia||Chapel Hill||17–4–1|
|19||Saturday||W, 3–2||Third round: |
No. 15 BYU
|South Bend, Ind.||19–4–1|
|2||Friday||W, 3–2||Semifinals: No. 5 Florida State||Cary||20–4–1|
|5||Monday||L, 3–2, 2 OTs||Championship: No. 1 UCLA||Cary||20–5–1|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications