Current Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:55:43 -0400
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The pass was perfect. The shot was perfect. And now the North Carolina women’s soccer team will play for a championship.
Kealia Ohai scored the game-winning goal and No. 13 UNC beat No. 1 Stanford 1-0 in double overtime in the College Cup semifinals.
The Tar Heels will play Penn State in the finals on Sunday at 4 p.m.
In the 105th minute, Crystal Dunn dribbled down the middle of the field, drawing the Stanford defense in toward her. She fed the ball around the outside of the defense to a sprinting Ohai.
Ohai dribbled into the top-right corner of the box and tucked a shot off the left post and into the bottom of the net, past the diving keeper.
“Kealia is really good at making those outside runs, and she plays with great pace,” Dunn said. “That’s why she’s so good at finishing all these chances — it’s because she creates the space for herself. On that through ball, she really had all the space.”
But before Dunn found Ohai in that space, both teams went through phases of the game where they controlled play.
Stanford outplayed UNC in the first half of the match with physical soccer. The Cardinal had a huge edge in the air, winning almost every header battle.
But the game opened up in the second half, and both sides got several good scoring opportunities.
And finally, the Tar Heels took control in the overtime periods. They had the better chances in the first overtime and dominated the second even before Ohai’s goal. And they made the last play — the only one that counted.
“The final strike, the great serve in and the final composed finish were absolutely outstanding,” coach Anson Dorrance said.
“That was probably the best chance of the game. It wasn’t a ball bouncing around the box or some sort of fluke, it was an engineered attack.”
Ohai didn’t even play in the first overtime period. Neither did forward Summer Green. Both are top scoring options for the Tar Heels, but Dorrance said in a long game against a team as tough as Stanford, he needed to rest his sprinters.
And in the second overtime, Ohai had the legs to make the biggest play of UNC’s season. The Cardinal players didn’t look like they had the legs to hold off the Tar Heel attack.
The overtimes, especially the second, were controlled by UNC. Where the Tar Heels had been struggling to create space against the Stanford defense earlier, they found open lanes late.
UNC had six shots in the two extra frames. Stanford had none.
But anything could have happened in the first 104 minutes of the match — the last minute erased it all.
“I got a pretty good chance right before that, and I shot it near post and it wasn’t good at all — I could have crossed it,” Ohai said. So when I got that (last) chance, I thought ‘I have to score this. I have to make the big play.’ Crystal’s been carrying us … and it was time for someone else to put one away.”