Tar Heels Take College Cup Title With Late Goal
Dec. 7, 2008
CARY, N.C. - Junior forward Casey Nogueira pounded home a pair of "world class" goals in the second half Sunday afternoon as fourth-ranked North Carolina rallied past top-ranked Notre Dame 2-1 in the championship game of the 2008 NCAA Women's College Cup before a crowd of 7,102 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Carolina had to weather a Notre Dame goal in the first 16 seconds of the match to earn its 100th victory in the 27-year history of the NCAA Tournament and in the process it garnered its 19th NCAA title and its 20th national championship overall. The Tar Heels ended the season on a 22-match unbeaten streak (21-0-1), beating the nation's No. 2-ranked and No. 1-ranked teams in the semifinals and finals of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tar Heels finished with a record of 25-1-2 to become the ninth team in Carolina history to win 25 matches in a season. Notre Dame was looking to become the only team other than North Carolina to finish the season unbeaten and untied but Nogueira's winning goal with only 2:06 left in the match dropped the Fighting Irish to 26-1-0 at season's end.
The Fighting Irish had a brilliant campaign and had won its last two meetings against Carolina including a 1-0 win over UNC on September 5 of this season in the Carolina Nike Classic at Fetzer Field. With the victory Sunday, the Tar Heels kept alive a streak which has seen no collegiate team defeat Carolina twice in the same season in 30 years as a varsity program.
It was the third straight year in which the two teams had faced each other in the NCAA Tournament. The Heels defeated Notre Dame 2-1 in the title game at WakeMed Soccer Park in 2006 while the Fighting Irish upset a No. 1-seeded UNC team 3-2 in the NCAA Round of 16 last year at Fetzer Field. The Irish had back-to-back wins over UNC and was trying to become only the second college team to beat the Heels three straight times (Santa Clara in 1999, 2001 and 2002).
Nogueira was named the Most Outstanding Player On Offense of the NCAA Tournament and she was joined on the Women's College Cup All-Tournament Team by Yael Averbuch, Brittani Bartok, Whitney Engen and Tobin Heath.
Despite outshooting the Fighting Irish 18-7 and holding a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks, the Tar Heels faced the upmost of adversity after being scored on only 16 seconds into the match. The ND goal would hold up throughout the first half and leave the Tar Heels facing a halftime deficit for the first time all season.
Directly off the opening kickoff, the Fighting Irish fought for possession of a 50-50 ball on the left side of the pitch with Courtney Rosen emerging from the pack with the ball. Rosen immediately chipped a ball over the Tar Heel defensive line into the box as Tar Heel goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris found herself staring into a bright sun as she attempted to find the ball. The ball would, for Notre Dame's sake, land right on the foot of forward Kerri Hanks around the 12-yard line. She corralled it, took a touch and then slid a shot into the lower right side past Harris, who made a valiant dive to her left in an effort to cut it off. The goal came only 16 seconds into play and was Hanks' 20th tally of the season.
The Fighting Irish were all over the Heels in the opening 10 minutes of the game, creating dangerous situations and threatening to increase their lead before the Tar Heels would hit their stride. Hanks had back-to-back corner kicks in the fourth minute of the match but neither resulted in a shot by the Irish.
A little over 10 minutes later, the Tar Heels had their first good opportunity to earn a tie as they were awarded a corner kick with 14:35. Yael Averbuch's corner found its way to Casey Nogueira at the top of the box and her shot was blocked. Junior defender Kristi Eveland was able to retrieve the ball in a crowd and her effort just four seconds later was punched away by Notre Dame goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander, giving the Tar Heels another corner kick. Taking this one from the left side, Averbuch found sophomore forward Jessica McDonald in the box who sent a header just over the bar.
The Heels had two more good looks at the goal in the opening 45 minutes but Averbuch's direct kick after a Notre Dame foul in the 39th minute went well high of the bar and Tobin Heath's shot from the top of the box with 29 seconds remaining skidded just wide of the left post.
Carolina came out of the locker room with a significantly more resolve after halftime. In the 51st minute, Jessica McDonald exhibited her toughness as she won the ball and dribbled down the center of the pitch, taking on a quartet of Fighting 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. Assessing the situation, Nogueira drilled a shot to the left of the wall and powered the ball almost instantaneously into the top left corner from 23 yards out. Lysander had no chance on the play as well placed as Nogueira's shot was. With the goal Nogueira notched her 24th goal of the season with the official time at 51:08.
The Tar Heels continued to put on the pressure with a series of three shots in less than three minutes. At 57:57, Nogueira's shot was blocked by the defense, Courtney Jones went wide right at 59:40 and Nogueira had another shot blocked off an Averbuch corner kick at 60:45.
Notre Dame regained the momentum for the next 10 minutes, taking it to the Tar Heel side before the second half media timeout. At 67:09, Kerri Hanks' shot was saved by Anna Rodenbough who came on in the goal at halftime for the Heels. UNC rotated its goalkeepers at halftime in all but two games this season. Rodenbough's stop was the first save of the game for the Heels.
Notre Dame nearly went up 2-1 in the 70th minute as Taylor Knaack's shot from point-blank range was parried away by Rodenbough while Courtney Rosen open shot with plenty of pace four seconds later flew just high of the crossbar.
The media timeout came at that point on the goal kick at the 69:24 mark and UNC head coach Anson Dorrance brought four reserves off the bench to give his regulars a break for a few minutes and give the Tar Heels some fresh legs on the field. Merritt Mathias, Rachel Wood, Leslie Briggs and Mandy Moraca entered for the Tar Heels and their energy helped Carolina regain the run of play.
Entering the final eight minutes, freshman forward Courtney Jones became aggressive in her play as she sent a shot wide at 81:21 and then had two shots in the penalty area blocked five seconds apart in the 84th minute.
The goal the partisan Carolina crowd was waiting for eventually arrived with only 2:06 left in the game. 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. In the post-match press conference, Dorrance would call the strike Nogueira's second "world class" goal of the game.
The goal was Nogueira's 25th of the season as she became only the ninth player in UNC history to score as many as 25 goals in a single campaign.
The game would end on that rather dramatic note, improving UNC all-time to 100-7-1 in NCAA Tournament play and earning the program's 20th overall national championship. Carolina won the 1981 AIAW national title before the NCAA began sponsoring the sport as a championship event and North Carolina has gone on to win 19 of the 27 NCAA titles since then with no other school claiming more than two titles.