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The Daily Tar Heel

Women's soccer claims 19th title

The North Carolina women's soccer team celebrates their 2-1 victory against Notre Dame.

6 P.M. SUNDAY DEC. 7 CARY – Forward Casey Nogueira had shown all season that she was one of the best players in her sport at the college level. And on the biggest stage in women's collegiate soccer" she proved it -- twice.

""On the greatest platform that we have" which is the championship final she scored two of the most phenomenal goals I've ever seen" coach Anson Dorrance said.
The first, a bullet of a free kick just after halftime, tied the game.

The second, a hanging ball shot from a narrow angle, cruised just enough to get over Notre Dame goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander's fingertips and while stile dipping under the crossbar on its way in.

Those two goals by Nogueira -- one with each foot -- were enough to earn North Carolina a 2-1 victory against Notre Dame to secure UNC's 19th NCAA championship and 20th overall title.

Despite Nogueira's showcase, it was the Tar Heels (25-1-2) who were wide-eyed to start the final at WakeMed Soccer Park on a windy Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame's Kerri Hanks put her team ahead only 16 seconds after the starting whistle after the Irish took the opening possession directly to the goal.

Courtney Rosen chipped a pass over the UNC back line, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris lost the ball in the sun and had to backpedal.

Hanks ran it down inside the six-yard box and, without hesitation, sent the shot bouncing into the right side panel.

We were a little bit cold" we were caught flat-footed and I think they took advantage of it" Harris said. But we didn't quit.""

Though the Tar Heels were familiar with Notre Dame's near-reckless physical play" the quickness of the Irish had them off guard early.

Notre Dame (26-1-0) had two early corners and kept UNC without a shot until the 16th minute. The Irish eventually paid the price over for their eagerness to sprint to the goal and they tallied eight offsides calls in the course of the game.

As the two sides grinded it out neither could gain a clear advantage. UNC finished with only a 4-3 advantage in shots on goal" and much of the game was spent battling for control and space in the midfield.

The Tar Heels got their chance just after halftime. Jessica McDonald was fouled while dribbling into traffic just a few feet outside the box at the dead center of the field.

Nogueira hammered the ensuing free kick just wide of Notre Dame's five-person wall and square into the back-left netting for her 24th goal of the year before the keeper had time to flinch.

""I just hit it as hard as I could" and thank goodness it went in" Nogueira said.

With the score tied, a renewed UNC team put on the pressure. The Tar Heels garnered two corners, three shots and a free kick in the next 10 minutes while holding the Irish without a shot.

But the game remained deadlocked, and by the 80th minute Dorrance had his starters back in for the finish.

In the 88th minute, Nogueira found herself the one place she'd been trying to get all game: with the ball, inside the left top corner of the box, with space. While her defender shadowed her touches, she paused, started right, then dribbled back to the left.

They were waiting for me to cut inside like I always do" and I saw a couple players there so I just took it outside the junior forward said. I was trying to get to the endline" and I realized she was gonna catch up to me so I just hit it across.""

The ball ricocheted off the defender's foot straight toward the opposite side panel and floated into the goal.

As the closing moments ticked off the clock" Nogueira fell to her knees near midfield.
She stood up just in time to embrace her teammates gleefully galloping toward her.

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