NORFOLK, Va. – The Connecticut Huskies defeated North Carolina in dramatic fashion to advance to the NCAA championship game on Sunday afternoon. UConn, who bested the Tar Heels in a shootout to take a 2-1 victory, has rolled to its sixth consecutive win and avenged three of its four season losses, improving to 20-4 on the year. North Carolina concludes its season with a record of 18-6.
UConn gained an early lead against North Carolina in the first half. The Huskies took advantage of their first penalty corner just four minutes into the game to jump on the scoreboard. Off the corner, Roisin Upton sent a hard low shot from the top of the circle that skirted through traffic and found the stick of a sliding Marie Elena Bolles on the back door. Bolles redirected the shot into the back of the cage from a low angle just off the right post for the 1-0 lead.
Both teams vied for possession for the remainder of the period but North Carolina could not solve Sarah Mansfield to break onto the scoreboard. She dismissed three first-half shots and came out of the goal to make several big plays to deny the Tar Heels many scoring chances.
North Carolina emerged from halftime with energy to earn a pair of corners early in the second half. The Tar Heels were able to draw even on the scoreboard 8:43 into the second frame of play. Charlotte Craddock found herself open on the left side of the circle and received a loose ball, evading Mansfield and depositing a low hard shot into the corner of the goal. UConn could not muster a shot in the second half but played relentless defense to prevent further Tar Heels scoring. At the end of regulation, a deadlocked 1-1 scoreboard sent the contest to overtime.
The Huskies regained their footing in the overtime periods and rattled off seven shots to swing momentum back in their favor. An early UConn corner with just more than nine minutes remaining in overtime nearly sealed the deal, but a Chloe Hunnable shot trickled wide right of the net. Anna Jeute nearly notched the winner midway through the second overtime but her rebound effort sailed high right of the net. The Tar Heels threatened to take the game with only seconds left on the clock in the latter overtime, but Mansfield rushed out to make a huge save and send the contest to penalty strokes.
Roisin Upton took the first penalty shot, but Ammer made a save to open up the shootout. Casey Di Nardo stepped up first for the Tar Heels, but Mansfield shut the door on her attempt to keep it scoreless. Anna Jeute buried UConn’s second attempt into the right portion of the goal to put the Huskies up 1-0. Emily Wold took the second shot for North Carolina, with her shot skirting wide of the goal. Marie Elena Bolles batted third for UConn, but her shot trickled wide right off of Ammer’s pads. Loren Shealy, shooting third for the Tar Heels, had a chance to tie the shootout at one apiece but her high lob stayed within reach of Mansfield’s arm as she swatted the shot safely away from net. Mansfield’s save left the door wide open for Chrissy Davidson, who logged the Huskies' second goal to seal the win for the Huskies.
Sarah Mansfield played a spectacular game between the pipes for Connecticut, stopping four shots and forcing several wide attempts in a full 100:00 of playing time. Ammer also logged all 100:00 in goal for the Tar Heels, stopping seven shots overall including five overtime stops in the setback.
The Huskies will face the Duke Blue Devils at 4 p.m. Sunday in the hopes of winning their third national title. Duke upset Maryland in the earlier semifinal by a score of 3-2.