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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's soccer falls to West Virginia, 1-0, to end improbable NCAA Tournament run

The No. 6 North Carolina women's soccer team fell to No. 1 West Virginia, 1-0, in the NCAA Tournament semifinals Friday. 

What happened?

West Virginia (23-1-2) came into the game ranked No. 2 in the country in goals allowed average, giving up just nine goals in 25 games in 2016. 

That defensive pressure was evident from the outset, as the Mountaineers held UNC (17-4-4) to zero shots in the first half. It was the first time the Tar Heels were held without a shot in a half since the Duke game earlier this season.

To North Carolina's credit, the team didn't allow West Virginia many chances, either. The Mountaineers best shot at goal came in the 16th minute, as defender Amandine Pierre-Louis made a nice run to the top of the box. No UNC defender crashed down on the ball, but the junior couldn't make solid contact with the ball, sending it right to Tar Heel keeper Lindsey Harris. 

Neither team had a shot for the remaining 29 minutes of the first half, with the teams heading into the break tied 0-0.

There was much more action in the second 45 minutes, a switch in pace that would seemingly benefit UNC. But instead, it was the Mountaineers who took advantage. 

In the 74th minute, West Virginia took a 1-0 lead behind the foot of Michaela Abam. The forward found herself with the ball after a set piece, cut back to her left foot and powered the ball through the gloves of Harris.

The Tar Heels had plenty of chances to equalize, however. In the 77th minute, first-year forward Bridgette Andrzejewski received a cross in the middle of the box, but her shot sailed high over the bar. Just more than a minute later, the ball fell to fellow first-year forward Madison Schultz in the box. She was all alone from six yards out, but she mishit the shot and sent it high. 

Junior midfielder Megan Buckingham had a half-chance a few minutes later, but the Tar Heels never could muster another solid opportunity. 

West Virginia was able to keep possession for the latter five minutes of the game, bleeding the clock and putting an end to North Carolina's improbable tournament run. 

Who stood out?

Abam caused problems all day for UNC. Her pace and size proved a matchup nightmare for the Tar Heel back three, and her strong left foot gave the Mountaineers a lead they would never relinquish. 

For UNC, defender Maggie Bill played perhaps her best game of the tournament. She has often been overlooked because of the play of her cohorts on the back line — Julia Ashley and Hanna Gardner — but she consistently battled against an adept West Virginia attack and held her own against some pretty talented forwards. 

When was it decided?

Things began to unravel for UNC with less than five minutes remaining. The Mountaineers took control of the ball and spent the remaining time on the clock in the corners of the field as time ran out. 

Why does it matter?

UNC hasn't won a national championship since 2012. With the loss to the Mountaineers, the graduating class of true seniors — made up of midfielders Darcy McFarlane and Cameron Castleberry and forward Sarah Ashley Firstenberg — will be the first four-year players to leave the North Carolina women's soccer team without winning a national title.

The broken streak might hurt most for McFarlane, who went down with an injury in the 23rd minute. She couldn't continue and had to watch from the bench for the next 67 minutes as her team's chances at an NCAA title slowly slipped away. 

@jbo_vernon

sports@dailytarheel.com

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