The North Carolina women’s soccer team fell to UCLA, 3-2, in the national championship game on Monday evening.
The Tar Heels came out in the 3-5-2 formation they adopted early in the tournament. They controlled the ball early but were unable to break UCLA’s defense. Sophomore midfielder Emily Colton produced the first shot on goal for the Tar Heels, but the boot came from beyond the penalty area and was saved comfortably by UCLA's Lauren Brzykcy.
UNC’s first true scoring opportunity came in the 21st minute. Off a free kick from junior midfielder Avery Patterson, the ball looped into the box and grazed off senior defender Julia Dorsey’s foot. With a defender to her back, Dorsey could not produce enough power on the shot to sneak it past Brzykcy.
The sluggish first half for both offenses was capped off by back-to-back corner kicks for the Bruins. The second attempt came from UNC redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen’s right side, but she climbed high to make the catch on the lofting ball. Outshooting the Bruins 5-3, the Tar Heels entered the break tied at zero.
UNC continued to stay in possession of the ball early in the second half. A foul by UCLA’s Jackie Gilday led to an opportunity that was headed away by the Bruins.
In the 59th minute, the Tar Heels finally broke through. With the ball at her feet near the right corner, senior forward Emily Moxley delivered a perfect cross into the center of the box. Splitting two Bruins defenders, the ball landed directly on Patterson’s head and was delivered into the back of the net. UNC’s season leader in goals came through to put the Tar Heels up one.
The defensive battle that characterized the game opened up with the goal. Four shots came in quick succession for the Bruins, all deflected by the UNC back line. On the other end, UNC produced opportunities of its own.
A shot by junior midfielder Talia Dellaperuta was saved by Brzykcy in the 73rd minute, but Patterson doubled Tar Heels’ lead two minutes later. A cross into the box found her head once again, and she floated the ball into the back of the net.
Just as the Tar Heels were ready to celebrate a national championship, the Bruins produced a run of their own. In the 80th minute, UCLA's Lexi Wright scored a goal to trim the deficit, and with 30 seconds to go, a last-gasp corner kick attempt was delivered toward the back-left post by Ally Lemos and Reilyn Turner put it away, tying the game at two.
UCLA carried its momentum over into the first extra time period. Two corner kicks left wandering balls in the front of the net, but the Tar Heels were able to clear away both chances.
The Bruins’ corner kick barrage continued in the second extra time. A shot by Turner off a set piece seemed to be cleared away by Emerson Elgin, and a VAR review confirmed the ball did not cross the line.
UCLA did put the ball in the back of the net two minutes later, however. Off an Emmie Allen rebound, Maricarmen Reyes gave the Bruins a lead that they carried toward the national championship.
Who stood out?
Despite dominating possession throughout the contest, the Tar Heels produced few chances all evening. Patterson, the bright spot on offense for UNC all season, came in clutch when the Tar Heels needed her. Precision crosses from Moxley and Colton led to both Patterson goals.
When was it decided?
While the game seemed to be decided for the Tar Heels in the waning seconds, a last-minute Bruins goal brought the game into extra time.
UCLA’s goal in the second extra time period completed its unlikely comeback. Visibly defeated, the Tar Heels could not produce any final chances in the last two minutes.
Why does it matter?
The stunning loss is the third-consecutive national championship defeat for the Tar Heels. Their championship drought is extended another year. Despite having a Division I-leading 21 national championships, the Tar Heels have not won one since 2012.
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