Heading into 2016, a trio of true seniors — Cameron Castleberry, Sarah Ashley Firstenberg and Darcy McFarlane — were in danger of becoming the only players in UNC history to play four years in Chapel Hill without winning a national championship. At the season’s outset, there was little hope they would avoid breaking the streak.
“If you saw this team in August, you would have been horrified at our level,” Dorrance said.
The Tar Heels relied on a handful of first-years and former reserves to carry the team early. But four months later, there they were — playing No. 1 West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
North Carolina reversed its fortunes, but the luck ran dry against the Mountaineers. In a game of limited chances, the Tar Heels fell, 1-0, in San Jose on Friday.
The game began on a low note for the Tar Heels (17-4-4), as McFarlane overextended on a slide tackle and injured her hamstring in the 23rd minute. She wouldn’t return to the game.
“I don’t know if it’s torn all the way or what, but luckily we have a lot of good center mids on our team ...” she said. “They didn’t need me, but I think everyone played really well.”
McFarlane was one of several UNC players who missed time in 2015 with a torn ACL. She played limited minutes at the beginning of the season, but her leadership was crucial to the Tar Heels’ mid-season turnaround.
Back in September, North Carolina lost back-to-back games to Southern California and N.C. State. With its season on the line, the team turned to McFarlane and its other seniors for guidance.