O'Reilly, Freshmen Lead Heels Back to Women's Soccer Title

Senior striker Heather O’Reilly went out in grand style with a goal and an assist and freshman forward Casey Nogueira celebrated her first career start with the same numbers as top-seeded Carolina (27-1) claimed its 18th NCAA women’s soccer championship Sunday with a 2-1 victory over second-seeded Notre Dame.

The Tar Heels finished a magical season with 27 straight wins after a season-opening double overtime loss at Texas A&M, tying the school record for victories in a season and returning to Chapel Hill the NCAA championship they have won 18 times in its 25-year history. The Heels won the title before a crowd of 8,349 at SAS Soccer Park in Cary – their first since 2003. Carolina also owns a 19th national title won in 1981 under the auspices of the AIAW. The Tar Heels improved to 18-3 in the NCAA championship games under Coach Anson Dorrance ’74.

A game in which the Tar Heels dominated possession and had a 20-9 edge in shots still went down to the final minutes. Carolina improved to 5-1 in NCAA tournament games against Notre Dame, handing the Irish their only loss of the season.

O’Reilly was the sparkplug offensively for the Tar Heels, and Nogueira provided the rest of the offense Carolina needed to prevail in a hard-fought championship game. O’Reilly was named most outstanding offensive player of the tournament, and Nogueira also made the all-tournament team. Other Tar Heels on the all-tournament team included junior defender Robyn Gayle, the defensive MVP; freshman defender Kristi Eveland; sophomore midfielder Yael Averbuch; and freshman midfielder Tobin Heath.

O’Reilly put the Tar Heels on the board at 17:57. It was her 12th goal of the season and the 59th of her career. Nogueira centered the ball from the right side to O’Reilly, who zoomed past the Notre Dame defense and drew Irish goalkeeper Lauren Karas out of the goal. O’Reilly dribbled around her and then lofted a shot to the far post over three Notre Dame defenders from 15 yards out.

The goal was the 15th NCAA tournament goal for O’Reilly as she tied Mia Hamm for second place in Carolina history in tourney scores. Only Christine Sinclair of Portland (25 goals) and Lindsay Tarpley of UNC (16 goals) now have scored more NCAA tournament goals than O’Reilly.

UNC had two more great chances to extend the lead in the first half, but Karas made big saves on shots by Whitney Engen at 26:06 and Sterling Smith at 43:23.

The Tar Heels came out in the second half starting seven freshmen – the most first-year players in Carolina history to take the field at the beginning of a period.

Less than 1:30 into the half, the Tar Heel lead became two goals. O’Reilly won a header from a Notre Dame defender and dropped it at the feet of freshman Whitney Engen. Engen dribbled into the far right corner and sent a cross to Nogueira, who was unmarked in the box. Nogueira headed the ball to the far post, earning her second game-winning goal of the College Cup.

Nogueira would end up having three more chances to score with her laser-like shots, but she missed the frame in the 72nd, 76th and 85th minutes.

In a game marred by 41 fouls, one of the Heels’ infractions near midfield set up Notre Dame’s lone goal at the 80:30 mark. Kerri Hanks sent a ball into the box that was headed on by Brittany Bock over the outstretched hands of UNC goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris from the six-yard line. The goal was Bock’s 12th of the season.

Notre Dame had a couple of good chances to tie the game, but the Tar Heel defense held firm the rest of the way. Harris saved a header by Bock at 86:11 of the match and then a wild scrum in front of the goal in the 88th minute became a dangerous situation for the Heels. A shot by Michele Weissenhofer was blocked by the UNC defense, and Tobin Heath eventually cleared the ball out of the box and out of danger.

The Fighting Irish had one last shot at the tie when the Tar Heels were called for a foul at the 24-yard line. Hanks took the free kick but it sailed wide right in the Fighting Irish’s last chance to earn the equalizer.

Related coverage:

  • What the Fields Teach
    For 25 years, Anson Dorrance ’74 – graduate of an all-boys boarding school – has been the unlikely conductor of the greatest athletic social experiment since women began playing college sports. It’s what you don’t see in games, however, that keeps the whole thing brewing.
    Feature coverage of UNC’s women’s soccer program, from the November/December 2004 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online.

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