The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, June 16, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Sweet 16: Tar Heels Capture Another NCAA Championship

By James Giza

Assistant SportSaturday Editor

SAN JOSE, Calif. - At some level, even if it happens to be buried somewhere deep in his subconscience, the national titles have to start blending together for North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance.

Was it 1987, when we went undefeated and won the NCAA championship? No, wait, that was every season from 1986 to 1989. And again from 1991 to 1993. Oh, plus, 1984 and 1997. I always forget those two.

But after the road his team traveled this season, Sunday's 2-1 victory against sixth-seeded UCLA in front of 9,566 at Spartan Stadium should stand out in his mind for years to come.

Playing without an injured Susan Bush, playing with Laurie Schwoy available only for spot duty, playing with leading-assist woman Jena Kluegel fighting a right ankle injury and playing with three losses for the first time in 20 years, the fifth-seeded Tar Heels captured their 16th NCAA title in the tournament's 19-year history.

"Every year it becomes more special so that eventually I will have a heart attack up here," Dorrance said. "This was a special win for a lot of different reasons. When there is adversity, you appreciate winning a lot more."

Call them the Cardiac Kids. Call them the Heart-Attack Heroes. Any such moniker for this year's Tar Heels (21-3) would be fitting after they posted a comeback victory for the third time in four tournament games.

After erasing a one-goal halftime deficit to defeat top-ranked Notre Dame 2-1 in the semifinals on Friday, the Tar Heels came from behind again on Sunday to take the title.

They fell behind 1-0 in the 54th minute after a collision between UNC freshman defender Catherine Reddick and goalkeeper Jenni Branam when they went for a Bruin cross at the top of the 6-yard box. Both players fell to the turf. With the net wide open, Bruin freshman Lindsay Greco collected the loose ball and punched it in.

"I felt bad that I did knock over Branam and kind of hurt her," Reddick said. "I just wanted for us to come back and win."

As the minutes ticked off the clock, shots sailed wide and corner kicks were cleared away by the Bruin defense, the Tar Heels looked likely to repeat their

1-0 loss to Florida in 1998's title match.

Meredith Florance, the tournament's offensive MVP, changed all that.

The senior forward broke free from the top of the Bruins' penalty area, received a pass from Alyssa Ramsey and booted a goal into the top of the net from 10 yards.

"I think everyone on our team takes it upon themselves at some point to beat your defender and to take a physical risk to get into the box," said Florance, who scored four goals in the tournament.

UNC's game-winner came on an own-goal in the 83rd minute. Reddick won possession of the ball from a Bruin defender on the right wing, then served a cross from the upper-right corner of the penalty area into the 6-yard box.

Sandwiched between UNC's Kalli Kamholz and Leslie Gaston was Bruin defender Krista Boling. The ball struck her calf and deflected into the net past scrambling goalkeeper CiCi Peterson.

"She has carried us the entire year," UCLA coach Jillian Ellis said of Boling. "She's our captain, she's a leader. That's just the luck of the draw."

The game was reminiscent of UNC's win Friday against the Fighting Irish. The Tar Heels overcame a first half that Dorrance called "the worst half of soccer we played all year" with second-half goals from Kim Patrick and Jordan Walker to get to their 18th title game.

And there, the Tar Heels ensured that the end of their dynasty wouldn't come on their time.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Said Dorrance, "They never give up and are always confident that they can and will come back to beat any team."

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