CARY — The crowd collectively held its breath as the ball rolled past the goalie and tumbled into the back of the net.
As it inched beyond the line and into the corner of the goal, the ball and the North Carolina women’s soccer team’s season came to its final rest. It was all over. The Tar Heels had been knocked of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 overtime loss to Princeton on Sunday in the Sweet 16. It was just the 13th NCAA loss in program history.
“Pretty gut wrenching to lose in the Sweet Sixteen, but this team accomplished something,” redshirt senior Joanna Boyles said. “We won an ACC Championship, we were the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and I think we just need to hold our heads up high."
The game didn’t begin the way the Tar Heels (17-3-2) had hoped. In the fourth minute, an attempted clearance by goalie Samantha Leshnak rebounded off a Princeton forward and into the net, instead of soaring onto the other side of the field. Though head coach Anson Dorrance’s program boasts an aggressive offense, the Tigers (16-2-1) looked more ready to play in the opening minutes.
The Tar Heels responded in the 25th minute. After Zoe Redei and Dorian Bailey pushed the ball down field, Bridgette Andrzejewski broke away from the defense and fired a shot through the legs of the goalie. After a less than ideal start, the early game mistake was erased, and the game could go in any direction.