CHAPEL HILL – The NCAA quarterfinal matchup between second-ranked UCLA and fifth-ranked North Carolina lived up to its billing Saturday night as the Bruins advanced to the NCAA College Cup for the first time since 2009, beating the Tar Heels 1-0 in double overtime at Fetzer Field.
UNC saw its season end at 20-5 as it lost an NCAA quarterfinal game for the first time in history (26-1-1 in quarterfinal contests). The Bruins, whose only loss was a 1-0 setback to UNC on September 6, improved to 21-1-2 with their first ever victory over the Tar Heels in nine meetings between the two teams.
It was an evenly played game between the two teams. Both squads had 11 shots and UCLA had a 4-1 edge in corner kicks. Katelyn Rowland made four saves while recording the clean sheet for the Bruins. Anna Sieloff made a career high seven saves in her final game in the Tar Heel uniform.
Taylor Smith scored the game-winning goal for the Bruins on a breakaway in the 102nd minute. A ball was sent from the midfield line that found Smith in stride behind the UNC defense. Smith’s initial shot from inside the penalty area was knocked down by Sieloff but the ball pinged directly back to Smith her to poked it inside the right post at 101:31 of the match.
Carolina had to make a defensive adjustment heading into the second overtime as starting defender Katie Bowen was taken off the field in an ambulance with an undisclosed injury with 49 seconds left in the first overtime. Bowen was conscious and alert when she the field to be taken to UNC Hospitals for further evaluation.
The Bruins flighted their through ball to Smith past the area where Bowen normally patrols the middle of the 4-2-3-1 defensive shape.
Sieloff’s seven saves were two more than she had ever had in a Carolina uniform. After UNC outshot the Bruins 7-3 in the first half, UCLA had an 8-4 edge in shots after halftime, including a 4-1 edge in overtime.
Carolina’s best chances to score came in the last minute of the first half when Crystal Dunn’s shot from 15 yards was blocked by the Bruin defense, which has allowed only seven goals in 24 games this season. Kealia Ohai’s shots off a corner kick at 80:39 was the next best chance the Tar Heels had but it just missed the right post. Dunn, who suffered a high ankle sprain 10 minutes into last Sunday’s match against Texas A&M, was limited to 27 minutes due to the injury.
The College Cup matchups next weekend in Cary, N.C., will feature four teams seeking their first ever NCAA Championships in the sport – Virginia vs. UCLA in one semifinal and Florida State and Virginia Tech in the other semifinal. Carolina has won 21 of the previous 31 championships and the Cavaliers, Hokies and Seminoles will all be seeking to become the first ACC other than Carolina to win the title.
Carolina will look to rebound in 2014 with a much younger squad, but one expected to still be very athletic. Saturday night marked the final games for six UNC starters – forward Kealia Ohai, midfielders Crystal Dunn, Meg Morris and Kelly McFarlane, defender Megan Brigman and goalkeeper Anna Sieloff.