NORFOLK, Va. — For the first time in program history, Princeton won the NCAA Division I National Championship in a comeback 3-2 victory against North Carolina on Sunday. In a battle between the top two teams in the nation, it took another resilient effort by the Tigers to top the six-time national champions.
Princeton won the game off a penalty stroke in the 60th minute from Amanda Bird.
The opening minutes of the match were quick paced, as both sides looked to possess the ball, but it was North Carolina that took the initial advantage.
The Tar Heels earned consecutive penalty corners in the third and fourth minutes, but Princeton managed to deflect their shot attempts. Before the Tigers were able to fire off a shot of their own, UNC was awarded another series of corners. On North Carolina’s fourth corner of the match, Charlotte Craddock sent in the opening goal at 11:26.
Down 1-0, Princeton had an offensive surge and moved the ball into the Tar Heel circle. On a drive outside the cage, Kathleen Sharkey was fouled and the Tigers set up their first penalty corner of the game. Julia Reinprecht fed the ball to Katie Reinprecht and Sharkey was there to slam in the tying goal at 17:01.
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With the score tied at one, the second half opened similarly to the first as both sides exchanged possession, but were unable to convert on penalty corners.
The Tigers saw one of their best chances to take the lead in the 44th minute off a Kelsey Byrne drive down the right flank. She found Allison Evans open in the circle, but her point-blank shot was stopped by UNC’s goalie Sassi Ammer.
On North Carolina’s ensuing drive, Craddock connected with an open Katie Plyler on the far post to tip in the go-ahead goal 2-1 at 46:03.
With 17 minutes to play, Princeton set up another opportunity in front of the Tar Heel goal. Sydney Kirby dished the ball to Evans from the left side, but Evans was unable to redirect the ball into the cage.
After two close calls, Evans finally was there to put in a goal in the 56th minute. Kirby fed the ball to Sharkey on the right side. She passed it back to Kirby and her first attempt was deflected off Ammer’s pads. The ball bounced to the left side and Evans was there to tap in the tying goal.
At 59:52, Michelle Cesan dribbled the ball into the right side of the circle. Cesan was tackled to the right of the cage and the Tigers were awarded a penalty stroke. Junior Bird went to the chalk mark and sailed it in on the right side to give Princeton a 3-2 lead. The stroke was the first of the season for her and the Tigers conclude the year going a perfect 4-for-4 on strokes.
With less than a minute to play, UNC took a final penalty corner and the ball was sent in high and wide.
North Carolina held advantages in shots (13-11) and saves (7-6), but Princeton had a 10-9 differential on shots on frame.
The Tigers have won the first NCAA national championship for Princeton since women’s rowing in 2010.