Within the first period, the Wildcats engineered a quick 6-0 lead and had the top-ranked Tar Heels facing their largest deficit of the season. Midway through the fourth quarter, the margin had increased to seven.
After a quick two-goal run from the Tar Heels made the score 14-9, a key woman-up opportunity for North Carolina was killed by Northwestern, terminating the momentum generated by UNC. As the Northwestern fans erupted, Geiersbach sprang to life.
“As time was dwindling down, I realized this might be my last go at it,” she said. “For me, I was putting it all in for (my teammates).”
Probing behind the cage, Geiersbach peered around the right side, spun by her defender and swirled a desperation shot inside the left post to cut the lead to four with just over five minutes remaining. Twenty-seven seconds later, Growney put the ball in the net.
Not even 30 seconds after that, Geiersbach delivered again.
This time sprinting to her left, the preseason All-American zipped a bullet past the left-side post to bring the score to 14-12. As the Tar Heels huddled up after trimming the lead to two, a sense of new life could be felt.
“After every goal, we would look each other in the eyes and say, ‘I believe in you, you got this,'” Mastroianni said. “We refused to go away.”
Geiersbach simply could not be stopped, scoring unassisted once again with just over three minutes left in regulation.
Trailing by one point, Geiersbach again found herself on the cusp of a goal. In attack mode, she spun once, and then once more, before finding herself steps from the cage to sling a bouncing shot that found the back of the net.
In the blink of an eye, the Tar Heels had stormed back behind four unassisted goals from Geiersbach in just over three minutes — an individual performance even her own coach can’t believe.
“Sam went crazy,” Levy said. “Not one kid is going to make or break a day, well Sam might have.”
However, she wasn’t finished. With a minute remaining, and the game still knotted up, the Tar Heels regained possession.
Instead of going to the likes of Ortega or Mastroianni, players who have witnessed years of UNC’s postseason struggles, the Tar Heels dished the ball off to Geiersbach. Again, the attacker bested Northwestern goalkeeper Madison Doucette, firing in the game-winning goal between a pair of Wildcat defenders.
For the first time, the purple craze went mute.
North Carolina had pulled it off, going on a blazing 8-0 run in the final 10 minutes to prolong an undefeated season and earn the program’s first national title appearance in six years.
And when the season looked to be all but lost, it was that preseason FaceTime the team pointed to — that call to the now-legendary Geiersbach — that ended up paying off season-saving dividends in May.
“I think that FaceTime did pretty well,” Moreno said. “Thank god we did (convince Sam).”
@dthsports | email@example.com