BC scored the last three goals of the ACC championship to cut its deficit to three–the closest it had come within the Heels since just seven minutes into the first half.
But UNC held on, 14-11, to secure its third consecutive title. The Eagles’ picturesque, 19-0 undefeated run would come to an end in Durham, N.C.
No.2 BC opened play at Koskinen Stadium with two goals in under four minutes to go up, 2-0, but the No.5 Tar Heels then went on a 9-2 run. With five minutes left in the first half, UNC led, 9-4.
UNC freshman Jamie Ortega scored five of her six goals during the Tar Heels’ surge and marked an ACC championship record. BC’s Sam Apuzzo scored two of her four goals during the first half, but BC could not gain much ground before it went into halftime down, 9-6.
The Tar Heels (15-3, 6-1 ACC) were winning both the draw controls and the scrappy ground balls. UNC was also beating the Eagles on 1-v-1 possessions, and no one in a white jersey was collapsing to help on defense.
Despite this, the Eagles (18-1, 7-0 ACC) didn’t have a poor performance, per say–certainly not for their first ever ACC championship appearance (compared to UNC’s eight of the last nine years). They just weren’t the same team fans have seen all season.
BC was a different team than the one that beat UNC, 17-11, on Mar. 23, handing the ‘Heels their only in-conference loss. Unlike the 6-0 second-half run that lofted the Eagles to victory last month, at one point during the title game BC found itself down by six–its largest deficit against an opponent all-season.
And in a rare occasion for BC, the Tar Heels ultimately secured more draw controls at 16-11.
But in the second half, BC outshot UNC, 23-10. The difference: UNC made 50% of its shots in contrast to BC’s 17%. The Eagles were either off target, or their shots were saved by UNC goalkeeper Taylor Moreno, who recorded 11 saves and was later awarded MVP of the tournament.
At one point in the final minute of the game with the score at 14-11, BC’s Christina Walsh strode all the way down the field in transition to UNC’s 8-meter before she was cross-checked from behind by the Tar Heel’s Kara Klages. Klages was given a red card, and BC’s Tess Chandler had a free position shot at the center hash. Things looked opportunistic for the Eagles.
“Let’s go girls. Right now. Everything you got,” said BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein.
Except Chandler’s shot was surged over the goal and any last-ditch momentum was lost.
The fall from perfection had to come at some point, however. And better now before NCAA tournament play begins. The pressure to maintain an untainted resume is off; No.1 Stony Brook remains the only undefeated team in the NCAA at 19-0. BC might’ve lost its No.1 seed come May 12, but it’s going to enter the tournament in good positioning regardless.