“If you look at our season overall, we certainly overachieved,” Coach Anson Dorrance said. “Conference co-champs with Florida State, No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Pretty good for a team that basically was without 10 starters from the previous year.”
Soccer can be a fickle sport. Sometimes it only takes one random bounce of the ball to either send a team home in celebration or in frustration of what could have been. The full spectrum was on display this weekend at Fetzer Field.
In 180 minutes of regulation over two games, the Tar Heels couldn’t find the back of the net despite 29 total shots at goal. The scarcity of goals left UNC in a permanent state of desperation throughout both of its games over the weekend.
Friday evening, UNC learned what pure ecstasy feels like.
In the second round against Colorado, it took overtime and a golden goal winner by sophomore midfielder Maya Worth to break the deadlock and send the Tar Heels to the Round of 16 for the 33rd straight year with a 1-0 victory.
Once Worth scored the game-winner, her teammates swarmed her from every direction. The excitement continued into the halls of McCaskill Soccer Center. Screams and laughter penetrated the doors of the press room, where Worth and junior defender Katie Bowen congratulated each other in shock.
But Sunday afternoon, that ecstasy turned to misery.
A 20-yard shot by South Carolina’s Raina Johnson ricocheted low off the right goal post, bounced off junior goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin and slowly rolled into the net’s right corner for their game-winner.
In the final seconds, UNC’s disappointment was evident: some players hunched over, some fell to their knees and some simply sat down, refusing to move. Less than 48 hours after a celebration, the soccer center was a somber scene. Players hugged and comforted each other in near silence.
“These girls played with so much heart,” senior defender Satara Murray said. “These girls, every one of them, they bring a special personality to this team, and I think that’s why we had the season that we had this year.”