UNC began the year ranked fifth and lost its first game of the season to then third-ranked Florida.
“For us, it’s just to go out — not for revenge — but to better ourselves for the next game,” junior defender Sloane Serpe said after the 5-3 loss. “This is only going to make us work that much harder.”
The Tar Heels then defeated 11 consecutive opponents — six of which were ranked — including defending national champion and then-No. 1 Northwestern.
UNC’s winning streak, which is tied for the second-longest in school history, was snapped by ACC rival Maryland, who defeated the Tar Heels 14-13.
“It definitely gives us a little bit of grit moving forward,” said junior Abbey Friend after the regular-season game in April. “We’ll take a close loss now, just move on and get ready for the ACCs, because we’ll probably see them again.”
Fighting to top the ACC
After earning the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament at the end of the regular season, UNC defeated Boston College 16-6 before falling to the Terrapins in the championship game for the fourth consecutive year. The score, this time, was 12-8.
“The game has no memory,” coach Jenny Levy said to her players all season long.
And after the ACC title game loss, the Tar Heels seemingly took this philosophy to heart.
They were headed to the NCAA Tournament.
Third time’s the charm
UNC’s title run began with victories against Loyola and Virginia, allowing the Tar Heels to advance to the Final Four for the seventh time in program history.
Despite losing to the Wildcats twice previously in the Final Four, the Tar Heels defeated No. 2 Northwestern — the winner of seven of the previous eight national titles — 11-4 in the semifinal game, punching their ticket to play No. 1 undefeated Maryland for the third time this season in the championship.
And the third time proved to be the charm for the Tar Heels as UNC defeated the Terrapins 13-12 on a game-winning shot in triple overtime from freshman midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy.
“A dream — it literally feels all like a dream,” Tracy said after the game.
“To see that ball go in the back of the net was something I’ve dreamed about ever since my dad put a stick in my hand.”
UNC had only been to the championship game once previously, losing to Northwestern 21-7 in 2009, but has at last made the final push to win its national title.
“Yeah, we’ve been to the Final Four a lot, but this is what puts our team over the hump,” senior midfielder Emily Garrity said. “This shows that North Carolina will win and North Carolina does win.”
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