(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
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PROVO, Utah — A second-overtime goal by North Carolina knocked No. 2 BYU out of the NCAA College Cup Friday night, ending one of the Cougars’ best seasons in program history with a 2-1 loss.
BYU ends the season 20-2-2 while North Carolina advances to a 13-5-3 record and a berth in the semifinals of the tournament.
"I'm very proud of this year's team and how they played tonight," said BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood. "Hats off to North Carolina, they played an outstanding game and we wish them all the best in the Final Four next weekend. I thought the girls battled hard tonight. It's tough to find confidence after giving up a quick goal early on but I was proud of how they bounced back. It's been an amazing year, we've accomplished a lot and I think the team has a lot to be proud of."
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The appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals is BYU's first since the 2003 season. The Cougars advanced to this year's postseason tournament after winning outright the West Coast Conference title and earning the automatic bid.
"The chemistry of the team and how hard these girls worked for each other is what I'll remember most about this year," Rockwood said. "Everyone found their roles and supported each other. The frienships and relations with the team are the things you'll remember but also the big wins: winning a WCC title and making this run in the NCAA Tournament."
Against the Tar Heels, BYU totaled eight shots while allowing 23 for the visiting team.
"We didn't keep the ball as much as we're used to," Rockwood said. "UNC is very fast and quick to pressure, and we had a hard time connecting but we were still able to create a lot of opportunities we can be proud of. We were close tonight but both sides battled and it was an all-around great game."
BYU goalkeeper Erica Owens led the game with eight saves and Rachel Manning led the Cougar offense with three shots, two of them on goal.
North Carolina scored the first goal off a Crystal Dunn cross to the bottom corner of BYU’s net in the third minute.
Fighting for a goal of their own, the Cougars bounced back and put on the pressure. In the 27th minute, Michele Murphy crossed the ball into Carlee Payne Holmoe. A push from a North Carolina defender took Holmoe down and rewarded BYU with a penalty kick. Manning sank the kick into the back of the net for her first goal of the season to tie up the score at 1-1.
The Tar Heels led in shots during the first half, collecting nine to the Cougars’ three.
BYU turned up the offensive pressure in the second half with three shots in the first few minutes. Cloee Colohan ran up the middle with the ball, after beating a North Carolina defender, and had a chance to take the lead but the ball sailed right into the hands of Tar Heel goalie Adelaide Gay.
Owens made a key save for the Cougars in the 56th minute after an intense Tar Heel attack. BYU defenders did their best to clear the ball, but North Carolina’s Kealia Ohai hooked it toward the goal. Owens snatched it from the air to end the North Carolina attack.
"Tonight was definitely high pressure for me because of North Carolina's speed but our defense did a great job of holding them back," Owens said, "I think they had to work a lot harder than they're used to and unfortunately we couldn't hold it all back but it was a very well played game by both sides."
BYU had another scare in the final minutes of regulation as a Cougar foul just outside the box gave Tar Heel forward Summer Green a free kick. Green lobbed the ball up and over the net to keep the game tied.
Owens made four saves in the second half to keep the game at 1-1 headed into overtime.
In the first overtime period, Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall’s attempt at a golden goal was thwarted after she received the ball from Holmoe. A wrong move by the Tar Heel goalie left the goal unprotected, but as Cutshall tried to cross the ball toward the far corner, a North Carolina defender tapped it out of bounds at the last second.
The resulting corner kick allowed Manning a shot on goal, which was saved by Gay.
In the 106th minute of the second overtime, Ohai crossed the ball to Dunn who launched it into the net for the North Carolina win and Dunn’s second goal of the night.
Head coach Jennifer Rockwood
"Our defense was absolutely phenomenal tonight. That's been a huge strength of this year's team. Our back four and Erica came through for us tonight, as they have all year."
"We certainly knew the talent and expericence of UNC so we didn't underestimate them at all. They went at us quite a bit but at the same time we wanted to play our style. You can't ask for much more than four or five good looks at the goal and we got that tonight so I'm proud of how the girls played. We wish North Carolina all the best."
"In a game like this, all you can ask is that your players give their best effort and I know tonight our girls gave it everything they had. Certainly our seniors stepped up and I know they left it all out there on the field."
BYU team captain Erica Owens
"I don't think I've ever seen the crowd act the way they didd tonight. I think the crowd knew how important this game was for us and they were doing all they could to support us. I know our team tried to use that and work for it."
BYU team captain Cami Jensen
"I think a lot of our team's ability to do well this year was in our team chemistry and how much we connect on, and off, the field. Our fan support was amazing this year and our ability to play for them really came out this year. Being able to repesent BYU in a manner that it needed to be was something we strived for and to put BYU, and the soccer program out there."