Instead, she remembers the 2014 postseason, when she rifled in a 95th-minute game-winner to beat Colorado in overtime and advance to the Elite Eight. Her teammates swarmed her in celebration.
If only the West Virginia game had ended like that.
Sometimes, the thought of last year’s 1-0 Final Four loss still keeps her up at night. She tries not to think about it more than once a week, but nearly ten months later, it’s clear that moment still holds weight.
It has allowed her — if not forced her — to stop and appreciate her time here. It’s propelled her toward a mindset for her last season: enjoy it while it lasts.
During her time in Chapel Hill, the 5-foot-4 soccer player has done it all. She’s a sports information major and a two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll selection. She’s been on the defensive back line, then moved to forward and back again to defense. She’s been the young rookie, and now she’s the oldest player on the team.
“Twenty-two," she said with a laugh. "It sounds so old."
Her unique college experience allowed her to see both sides of the coin in everything, and it's changed the way she carries herself.
The life of a redshirt senior athlete is different than most. The class of players she was recruited with has mostly graduated. Worth has focused her last year on learning how to “be more of a complete adult.”
Getting eight hours of sleep every night is a necessity. She's the self-proclaimed grandma of the team and is in bed by 11 p.m. almost every night. As a fifth-year student, she has time for that.
She’s learning how to cook a good medium-rare steak, how it should be seared and when to apply herbs and butter along the way. She attends plays and listens to guest speakers on campus in her free time and does all kinds of things she never could before.
“She’s a consummate professional,” head coach Anson Dorrance said.
She’s all these things and more, and in her one last chance to win a national championship, she’s going to enjoy the ride while she can.
It was September 2016, and the North Carolina women’s soccer team was getting killed by Southern California.
Worth was still coming off an ankle injury, but she knew exactly why her team was struggling against an aggressive Trojan defense. It was the same kind of team she used to thrive against back when she played forward for Green Hope High School in Cary and the Chelsea U18 club team.
“I remember something inside of me instinctively was telling me, ‘Just volunteer to play forward again,’” she said. “‘You can do this.’ I just wanted to see if I could get the job done, because I felt like I could have.”
She stood up and pleaded to get in the game as a forward instead of her normal defensive position.
Anson, please. I swear I think I can do this.
Worth never made it into the game, and North Carolina lost 3-0. It was the worst loss of her college career and only the second time UNC has ever lost by three goals to a college team.
Dorrance kept what she said in the back of his mind.
“After that game, I started doing some soul searching to figure out a lineup that could compete with some of the best teams in the country,” he said. “Part of the solution was to throw Maya up top, and it was a great decision, because she just kills herself for her team and her teammates.”
After another loss to N.C. State in the next game, Dorrance knew it was time to make a change. The offense needed a new perspective, and the solution was Maya Worth.
With Maya at center forward, the offense looked alive again. The team skyrocketed back on top and lost just one more game during the regular season. Worth tallied two goals and four assists in 1,083 minutes and added another layer of speed to the offense with the skills she learned as a former high school track star.
As far as Worth knew, she’d left defense behind for good.
It was April 2017, and UNC was about to take on the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League. The professional squad was loaded with talent, including former Tar Heel forward Jessica McDonald. As Dorrance read out the starting lineup, Worth geared up for a game at forward.
“Julia Ashley, Jessie Scarpa and Maya in the back,” Worth remembered Dorrance saying.
Her ears perked up. What? A look of surprise spread across her face.
“Maya, can you play back there?" Dorrance continued. "I know you have experience. We want you back there.”
Worth hadn’t played defense for eight months, and she was scared out of her mind. She went over the old tactics she used to know well, then ran out onto the field to take on a whole team of professional players.
“The first half, I remember I was so nervous,” she said. “I remember one punt came and I said, ‘Oh my God, I don’t even remember how to track a ball for crying out loud.’”
As the rust started to wear off, everyone in attendance began to take notice of how well she was playing.
“The first couple times, it was kind of shaky,” her father Leroy Worth said. “But after that, she was really impressive. All those players (on the Courage), they had some serious upper-level competition, and it was coming in waves.”
In scrimmages like this, the professionals often pick on the weaknesses of college players. But they couldn’t get away with that on Worth.
“More than one pro coach, seeing that his team really failed to penetrate down the right side, asked about Maya," Dorrance said. "So I’m convinced she’ll be able to sign a pro contract in the spring and play professionally.”
Since that game, Maya has officially returned to the left back position. With her as a leader on defense, the fifth-ranked UNC boasts four shutouts and a 7-2 record this season.
After her North Carolina career is over, Maya might sign on the dotted line to play forward or defender, or anything that is asked of her, just like she has in college.
Nothing’s set yet. But for now, one thing is for certain.
“When teams look at us, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh yeah, let’s go down the right side,’” Dorrance said. “They’re going to look at Maya and say, ‘You know what, I don’t think we can attack that side.’ I know she’s going to protect it with her life.”