SAN DIEGO – Of all the crushing defeats North Carolina has handed Stanford, this one might have been the toughest.

Stanford, the country’s No. 1 team and favorite to win the College Cup, was knocked out by its nemesis in the second overtime, ending the squad’s dream to win its second consecutive national championship.

The Cardinal has been on the precipice of becoming the premier collegiate women’s soccer program, but the Tar Heels aren’t ready to relinquish the crown they have worn for more than three decades.

“It was a disappointing end to a great year,” said a still-stunned, Paul Ratcliffe. It’s always difficult to lose in overtime because you can’t make any changes or do anything to get back into the game because the game is over with one kick of the ball. Overall, I’m proud of the team, great year. Tough way to end.”

The Cardinal program had been more successful than UNC for the past three years. They had been to the College Cup every year, while the Tar Heels failed to advance past the third round the last two. This year, Stanford was a No. 1 seed, while UNC was thankful for its No. 2 seed.

UNC Coach Anson Dorrance is the architect of the program,  in his 34th year of coaching, but was impressed with Stanford before and after the semifinal game.

"We go head-to-head with Stanford in recruiting, and we rarely beat them," Dorrance said. “This field we are playing is littered with my recruiting failures.”

Stanford might have the players, but Dorrance has the results. His teams continued its undefeated streak, now 9-0-3 against the Cardinal.

The toughest loss for Stanford before Friday was 2009 when they met Carolina in the College Cup Final. The team lost 1-0 and had two goals nullified because of offside calls.

This defeat, though, will make Stanford wonder if they will ever beat North Carolina.  It is a ghost that has yet to be exorcised.

“The last couple of times we played them, I think we tied them, so that was frustrating we couldn’t break through,” Ratcliffe said. “And tonight in overtime, we’ve played them on evenly matched games and on a different day, it could have went a different way.”