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The Daily Tar Heel

A Dream Deferred: Tar Heels Fall Short of NCAA Title

NORFOLK, Va. -- For Marina DiGiacomo, it was a storybook ending.

In the last game on her home field, DiGiacomo scored the first goal on a penalty corner to help Old Dominion defeat North Carolina 3-1 in the NCAA title game at Foreman Field.

DiGiacomo also picked up her second national championship at ODU.

For North Carolina, DiGiacomo's storybook ending was more like a nightmare.

The Tar Heels were bolstered by the outstanding play of goalkeeper Amy Tran and managed to mount a rally with five minutes left in the game to try to upset the top-ranked Lady Monarchs.

But it wasn't enough.

UNC drew three penalty corners with less than 2 1/2 minutes to play, but the Tar Heels couldn't find any holes in Old Dominion's corner defense.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, ODU found holes in their corner defense and scored off two saves by Tran.

Tran finished with 15 saves. There were several plays when she made multiple saves before the ball got out of the circle.

"Amy Tran was outstanding. I really believe she's one of, if not the best goalie in the country," UNC coach Karen Shelton said. "She's really saved us. Our strength this year has been strong defense and penalty corner execution."

UNC showed strong defense to tie DiGiacomo's hands, although after the game she said she couldn't tell a difference in UNC's strategy.

"I thought we did a nice job on Marina today, so that's some consolation," Shelton said. "But they're an outstanding team, so even if you stop her, they have a lot of weapons that can come back and bite you."

Julie Miracle was the first to bite the Tar Heels. After Tran kicked a DiGiacomo hit away from the net, Miracle took control of the rebound and slapped it in the cage with 33:49 left in the game.

Laura Steadman added ODU's third goal in similar fashion, scoring after a ball deflected off of Tran's chest.

UNC responded by pulling together its biggest threat of the game. UNC charged hard at ODU goalie Marybeth Freeman, but she stopped each shot.

UNC got on the board on its second penalty corner of the afternoon. Sweeper Abby Martin hit a straight shot outside the circle, and Kristen McCann got a stick on it to tip it in for the goal.

The Tar Heels tried the same options a corner later, but Holly Huff couldn't touch the ball before it hit the cage.

UNC advanced to the title game by taking a 4-1 victory against Maryland in the semifinals Friday.

Although UNC didn't have nearly the opportunities the Terps had, it converted more of its chances. UNC debuted a corner option to exploit the Terrapin defense and dished the ball to Meredith Keller, who had two goals on the night.

"Once you make it to the final four, anything can happen," Shelton said. "I think we proved that against Maryland -- some people thought they were the heavy favorite and were going to come in and dominate -- and we were able to come out with the win.

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"I think if we had been luckier and done some things differently, we could have come out with the win. But we didn't."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.