BALTIMORE, Md. — With the sound of the final horn, almost every Tar Heel ran.
Almost every UNC player ambushed the far-side cage where graduate goalkeeper Taylor Moreno waited to celebrate North Carolina’s perfect season, capped off with a 12-11 win over No. 3 Boston College in the national championship game.
Almost everyone ran. Everyone except three figures.
Fifth-year Jamie Ortega and sophomore Caitlyn Wurzburger lagged behind. The pair — one a Tar Heel veteran and the other a symbol of the program’s future — helped clinch the title with a game-sealing clear.
As time expired and their teammates across the turf began to flood onto the field, Ortega draped her arm across the shoulder of the young attacker, and her emotions began to pour out.
“I started crying immediately,” Ortega said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, we did this.”
As Wurzburger guided UNC’s all-time leading scorer towards the jumble of their teammates, one player strayed far behind the rest — Scottie Rose Growney.
The fifth-year attacker had struggled for the large majority of the afternoon. Forcing wayward shots near the eight-meter line and coming up empty-handed on a point-blank opportunity, the typically efficient Growney had misfired on all three of her shot attempts.
The struggles from Growney, and other members of North Carolina’s offense, resulted in an early fourth-quarter deficit. A deficit that stirred up nightmarish memories for the Tar Heels, who fell to Boston College in the 2021 NCAA semifinals.
Still, North Carolina’s confidence never wavered.
“We had so much belief in one another,” graduate midfielder Ally Mastroianni said. “There was never a doubt.”
And midway through the final quarter, this resulted in a transition offense that netted two goals just a minute apart, propelling UNC to a 10-9 lead.
Now, all North Carolina needed was an insurance point.
After a scramble for a ground ball wound up in the stick of graduate attacker Sam Geiersbach, the ball zipped across the turf to Growney. With Ortega and Wurzburger lined up on her left, an immediate pass by Growney to one of her teammates was expected.
Instead, the two Tar Heels cleared out.
Darting across the field, the sea parted ways for Growney to operate in a one-on-one situation.
When an Eagle stick blocked early entry, Growney flipped directions and shuffled to her weak side. Here, an opening presented itself as the fifth-year fired a missile just three steps inside the eight-meter crease. The ball launched out of her pocket and nestled inside the top-right corner of the cage.
Cheers erupted as Growney backpedaled and threw her stick up in celebration.
The late goal proved to be the difference in Sunday’s game and secured the program’s first undefeated season.
“We’ve lost a lot of one-goal games over the last couple of years,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “It was really nice to be on the other side of it.”
As the parade of North Carolina personnel marched towards Moreno’s cage, game-winning Growney — all by her lonesome — appeared from the sidelines.
Darting across the championship logo painted at the center of Homewood Field, she hoisted an unfamiliar piece of hardware high above her head — something not a single player on this year’s roster had ever laid a finger on.
A national championship trophy.
“I had been looking at (the trophy) since I was in elementary school,” Growney said. “I wanted so badly to be one of those girls holding it.”
After Growney reunited with her teammates, the party began. The celebration would continue for the next half-hour as ‘We Are The Champions’ blared over the stadium speakers. Bursts of blue and white confetti fluttered through the afternoon heat and Levy was doused in blue Powerade.
As UNC’s head coach stood soaked, the realization of what the moment meant to her team began to sink in.
“They’re going to spend the rest of their lives as national champions from the University of North Carolina,” she said.