CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Senior forward Courtney Jones’ 20-yard shot from the top of the box in the 96th minute found the lower left corner of the goal, lifting third-ranked North Carolina to a 2-1 overtime victory against top-ranked and defending national champion Notre Dame Friday night before 5,236 fans, the fourth largest crowd to watch the Tar Heels play at Fetzer Field. It was Carolina’s first win against the Fighting Irish at Fetzer Field since 1998 as UNC broke a three-game losing streak to Notre Dame on its home pitch.
While Jones deservedly grabbed the spotlight in the post-match mosh pit on the Fetzer Field turf, her goal was set up with a pair of assists by Kealia Ohai and Amber Brooks. And North Carolina would probably not have even found itself in overtime in the first place were it not for the play of junior goalkeeper Hannah Daly who made a career-high seven saves, including one on a shot by Adrianna Leon in the 86th minute that seem destined to find the back of the net and lift the Irish to victory.
The game was the second contest Friday night as part of the 2011 Carolina Nike Classic. After 10th-ranked Duke defeated Houston 2-0 in the opening contest, UNC and Notre Dame took the pitch before a packed stadium. The Tar Heels have played before only three bigger crowds at Fetzer Field — 7,212 against Notre Dame on Dec. 1, 1995, 6,024 against Notre Dame on Sept. 13, 1998 and 5,721 against George Mason on Nov. 21, 1993. The second of those three games marked UNC’s only previous victory against the Fighting Irish at Fetzer Field and the latter of the three games marked Mia Hamm’s collegiate farewell when UNC whitewashed the Patriots 6-0 in the NCAA championship game.
Daly’s play proved to be the difference in the first half as she saved six of Notre Dame’s seven shots while Renee Premji scored an opportunistic goal in the 20th minute to stake the Tar Heels to a 1-0 lead at intermission. Daly had already exceeded her career high for saves in a game by halftime. The previous high was five in a 2-1 victory at Nebraska in the season opener.
Daly made four saves before the match was 16 minutes old, stopping Melissa Henderson at 3:42, Mandy Laddish at 7:39, Lauren Bohaboy at 9:43 and Elizabeth Tucker at 15:49. UNC’s best early chance came in the ninth minute when Kealia Ohai was able to break free from the defense but her shot from 12 yards out slid just inches wide of the right post.
Jones played a big part in setting up UNC’s first goal. After a foul on Notre Dame, Jones’ direct free kick from 22 yards was blocked over the end line. Jones took the ensuing corner which was initially cleared away. But she stayed with the ball and sent another cross into the penalty area. A Notre Dame defender tried to clear the ball but Premji, who had the game-winner against Nebraska, was unmarked at the top of the penalty area. She gathered in the ball and one-timed it into the side net on the left side for a 1-0 UNC lead at 19:13. It was the third goal of Premji’s career.
The teams settled down for most of the rest of the half and the defenses limited scoring opportunities. Daly matched her career high for saves at 20:15 on a shot by Jessica Schuveiller. Carolina almost made it 2-0 when Kelly McFarlane’s shot from distance went just over the bar in the 28th minute. Shortly after that Melissa Henderson appeared to tie the game for the Irish but the goal was called back for an offside violation. Daly then made her best save of the half at the 38:06 mark when Notre Dame served a ball from the left side that found an unmarked Rebecca Twining at the far post. But Daly knocked Twining’s shot away and the half ended 1-0 in favor of UNC.
The first 25 minutes of the second half was a battle of attrition in the midfield. Neither team was able to generate good looks at the goal. But in the 71st minute, Notre Dame defender Jazmin Hall tied the match at 1-1 with her first career goal. With rain having soaked the field since halftime, Hall sent a high lofting ball from about 40 yards out and Adriana Leon effectively screened Daly as she went up to snare the ball. It went through her hands and into the goal before UNC defender Rachel Wood was able to track back and try to clear it away.
The Fighting Irish kept the pressure up and in the 86th minute created two good chances to score. Off a free kick, Jessica Schuveiller’s header hit the cross bar and bounded back into play. UNC defenders did its best to clear the ball but Adriana Leon found the ball on her foot on the left side of the box 15 yards out. She sent a bending ball that from the grandstand appeared destined for the right side netting but Daly’s leap to her left allowed her to get her fingertips on the shot and send it across the end line for a corner kick.
The Tar Heels came out aggressive in overtime. They created a great opportunity to score at 92:59 when after a foul by the Fighting Irish, Rachel Wood’s free kick went into the box and Amber Brooks’ header barely escaped the right post.
A little more than two minutes later it was Brooks who set up the game-winning tally. She intercepted a pass at midfield and made a run down the middle of the pitch. She found Ohai on the left side just on the edge of the penalty area. Ohai redirected the ball back towards the center of the field and Jones ran to it at the top of the box and buried a shot into the lower left corner setting off pandemonium in the stands and on the field.
The win gave UNC a 13-5-2 edge in the series. It was the first overtime game in the series since Sept. 3, 1999 when UNC beat Notre Dame 3-2 in South Bendin what was Randy Waldrum’s first game as Notre Dame’s head coach.