CARY — For the majority of the No. 4 North Carolina women’s soccer team’s game against No. 24 Notre Dame on Thursday night, the Tar Heels were outplayed, out-hustled and were dangerously close to suffering their first ACC loss of the season. However, all the Tar Heels needed was to borrow some luck from the Irish, as Bridgette Andrzejewski’s equalizing header with under 20 seconds left prevented the defeat, ultimately leading to a 1-1 draw in the final regular season game.
The first half was an evenly matched affair for the most part, but Notre Dame (9-5-4, 5-3-2 ACC) was the team that primarily maintained control.
Both teams were playing at an incredibly fast pace, which gave the Fighting Irish an early advantage due to their quickness. While UNC (12-2-2, 8-0-2 ACC) was outnumbered in shots 8 to 4 in the opening half, that did not mean the Tar Heels were unable to get excellent scoring chances.
One splendidly opportune moment was when first-year forward Alessia Russo attempted to dink the ball over the goalkeeper in the 10th minute. Notre Dame goalkeeper Lexi Nicholas made an acrobatic save to stop the scoring opportunity.
Following halftime, the Fighting Irish were the first team to leave their imprint on the scoreboard, due to forward Jennifer Westendorf’s one-touch left-footed strike that resulted from a timely counterattack in the 58th minute. The Tar Heels responded by trying to push the attack, playing more aggressively and having a restored sense of urgency.
Even with this being the case, UNC often struggled offensively for the duration of the second half. They were turned the ball over in critical moments and often miscommunicated with one another on passes.
In the final minute of regulation, the Tar Heels were graced with one last hope in the form of a corner kick with less than half a minute remaining. Well-aware that time was not on their side, Jessie Scarpa quickly picked up the ball, frantically ran over to the corner, and kicked a well-placed strike inside the six-yard box that found Andrzejewski as she headed the ball into the back of the net with just seconds to spare, forcing the game into overtime.
The thunderous applause of the crowd roared through WakeMed Soccer Park while Andrzejewski’s teammates engulfed her with excitement preceding the first overtime period.