SAN DIEGO, Calif. – One of the main reasons North Carolina is at the College Cup is a player that coach Anson Dorrance didn’t even want and discouraged from coming to the university.

It’s a good thing Adelaide Gay didn’t listen.

The senior goalkeeper has been a rock between the posts for the Tar Heels, starting 38 of 39 games the last two years, posting a 0.64 goals against average.

“She just has a wealth of elite soccer experience, and it has really benefited us,” Dorrance said. “And honestly, she is one of the reasons we are here.”

That is certainly a change in Dorrance’s assessment when Gay sent a letter to the North Carolina coach saying she wanted to transfer from Yale.

“We discouraged her, we told her not to come,” Dorrance said. “We told her she was never gonna play here, please don’t come.”

But it was too late. Gay’s mind was already made up. She had quit the Yale program, had to before she could contact UNC, so this was her only plan.

“Yes they were discouraging but they did say I could walk on and maybe I am stupid but I was an optimist,” Gay said. “It was very hard to quit the Yale team and get your release not knowing if I would have a place to play.”

No scholarship, walk-on, third-string goalie, the only soccer balls she saw were ones in practice, but Gay kept working and waiting, hoping she would get a chance to prove herself.

“The first year I was here they said I was the best third string keeper we’ve ever had,” Gay said. “It’s kind of a compliment but not one at the same time. It was hard but the one thing I always said about Anson and the coaches was that I never felt like they counted me out.” 

She wasn’t counted in though, there were two strong goalies ahead of her and the chance she would see any playing time was slim, but Gay never lost hope.

“I felt like at any moment I was going to get a chance and I had to figure out what I was going to do with it when it came,” Gay said. “You are competing every single day and you always feel like you have a chance. Whether I did or not, I don’t really know, but it worked out.”

Gay’s chance came last year when the two goalies ahead of her were injured and she was told she would be starting against Houston.

“It wasn’t a huge game and I wasn’t really nervous,” Gay said. “The parents the night before were asking me if I was nervous and I said I am the third-string I can’t do any worse.”

They won the game 6-1 and next week she faced a much stiffer test, traveling to Big Ten power Ohio State. She passed, shutting out the Buckeyes 3-0. 

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Dorrance said. “This humble kid came anyway and just worked hard. It’s one of these testaments to basically getting it done. She didn’t whine or complain to her initial role, which was obviously a reserve, and when the door opened, she went charging through it.”

Now Gay will finish her career on the biggest stage of collegiate women’s soccer.

“My whole experience here is more than I could ask for,” Gay said. “I have learned more about myself than I ever would have had I not come here. I think the confidence is so much higher because things did work out but it could have turned out differently. I got lucky and am really blessed.”