Carolina is getting used to seeing Notre Dame in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament. This was the third straight year in which the two teams had faced each other, and the Irish tasted the opportunity to be only the second school in history to go undefeated and untied over a season – that distinction belonging to the women from Chapel Hill.
The title match started ominously when Notre Dame’s Kerri Hanks scored only 16 seconds in, but the Tar Heels’ junior forward Casey Nogueira held the winning cards: Two goals, the second coming with 2:06 left in the match, to give Carolina a 2-1 championship, its 19th since the NCAA first sanctioned women’s soccer 27 years ago. It happened in front of 7,100 mostly friendly fans at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
The Heels went into the tournament ranked fourth nationally, and they beat the No. 2 (UCLA) and No. 1 (Notre Dame) teams in the semis and the final. It was their 100th tournament win, and they ended the season on a 22-match unbeaten streak after losing to the Irish in September. UNC finished 25-1-2 to become the ninth team in Carolina history to win 25 matches in a season.
Notre Dame’s early goal held up through the first half and left the Heels facing a halftime deficit for the first time all season.
Carolina came out of the locker room with significantly more resolve. In the 51st minute, sophomore forward Jessica McDonald won the ball and dribbled down the center of the pitch, taking on a quartet of Irish defenders. McDonald was fouled about five yards outside the penalty area to earn the Tar Heels a free kick. Notre Dame set up a six-person wall 10 yards in front of Nogueira at the 13-yard line.
Nogueira drilled a shot to the left of the wall and powered the ball into the top left corner from 23 yards out.
The winner came when Nogueira gained possession and dribbled down the left in an effort to evade the Notre Dame defense. She then ripped a 20-yard shot with her left foot that she bent over the goalkeeper into the top middle of the net. Coach Anson Dorrance ’74 called both her goals “world class.”
The goal was Nogueira’s 25th, and she became only the ninth player in UNC history to score that many in a single season.
She was named the most outstanding offensive player in the tournament, and she was joined on the Women’s College Cup All-Tournament Team by teammates Yael Averbuch, Brittani Bartok, Whitney Engen and Tobin Heath. Shortly afterward, Nogueira was named one of three finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor in intercollegiate soccer.
The men come close
But for a Maryland goal at the 66:10 mark of the first-ever men’s championship between conference rivals, Carolina would have two new soccer trophies.
The Tar Heels won four straight one-goal matches to reach the championship game before falling 1-0. Carolina finished the season 15-8-1 and had the second-best postseason finish in the program’s history.
The Heels are 21-15-0 all-time in NCAA play.
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