It’s tough to find confidence after giving up a quick goal early on, but I was proud of how (my players) bounced back. —BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood
PROVO — The BYU women’s soccer team had grown accustomed to pulling out games at the bitter end, but this time it finished on the wrong side — losing to North Carolina 2-1 in double overtime Friday night at South Field in the Elite Eight. UNC's Crystal Dunn swept home a beautifully centered pass from Utah native Kealia Ohai at the four-minute mark of the second overtime to send the Tar Heels to the Final Four and end BYU's magical season.
“We’re incredibly excited to be going to the Final Four. It’s the dream of every college team,” said North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance. “You want to be at the final party and now we have a chance to be there. We feel fortunate to have beaten a superb BYU team.”
North Carolina used a furious attack and superior speed to put BYU uncharacteristically on its heels throughout the game — ultimately outshooting the Cougars 23-8. Depth was also played a huge role for the Tar Heels with bench players making key contributions throughout.
Dunn started the scoring for the Tar Heels early — scoring with just over three minutes gone in the match. The Cougars settled down and drew even in the 27th minute after Carlee Payne Holmoe was taken down inside the UNC penalty box. Rachel Manning converted the ensuing PK opportunity with a perfectly placed ball into the upper right-hand corner.
“It’s tough to find confidence after giving up a quick goal early on, but I was proud of how (my players) bounced back,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “By the end of the first half we settled down a bit.”
The 1-1 tie held into the half with the Tar Heels owning a 9-3 shots-on-goal advantage.
The Tar Heel pressure continued into the second half, but BYU seemingly was able to turn back any scoring opportunities. Leading the way for the Cougar defense was goalie Erica Owens, who shined from start to finish.
“Erica (Owens) came up with some big saves just like she’s done every game for us this season,” Rockwood said. “Certainly Lindsi (Lisonbee Cutshall) and Ashley (Bazzarone) in the middle were under quite a bit of pressure and I thought they played some of the best soccer of their careers tonight.”
Rockwood also mentioned the effort of senior defender Cami Jensen as a key component in the team’s overall defensive effort.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the second half despite the Tar Heels owning an 11-3 shots-on-goal advantage.
The Cougar attack woke up in the first overtime period, but failed to convert two golden opportunities. First, Cutshall had a breakaway opportunity on an open goal before defender Brooke Elby made a miraculous recovery to block the shot. Seconds later Manning sent in a header that was deflected away by the outstretched arms of UNC goalie Adelaide Gay.
"We were thinking 'game-over' on that breakaway until Brooke (Elby) was able to catch up and make that play," Dorrance said. "She saved us."
The game appeared to be headed to a shootout before Ohai sent in her cross to Dunn with just four minutes remaining.
"I had a lot of shots that could have gone in, so that final pass was just awesome," Ohai said. "It was so fun to play in front of my family and friends. It was a lot of pressure because I know most of (BYU's) players growing up here."
Following the match North Carolina coaches were very complementary toward the BYU team and its fans.
"We can't believe your fans," Dorrance said. "I mean we're so used to Duke fans, so to come out here and experience your fans ... This is (a) great missionary (tool) because I am LDS and to be treated this way — it was just first-class."