CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-- The Texas A&M soccer team ended its season in the Quaterfinals of the NCAA Division I Championship with a 2-1, double overtime loss to No. 1-seeded North Carolina on Friday afternoon at Fetzer Field.
UNC’s heart-breaking golden goal came in the 102nd minute by Ali Hawkins to lift the 3rd-ranked Tar Heels over the 13th-ranked Aggies.
A&M finished the season with an 18-5-1 record, marking the fourth time the Aggies advanced to the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels improve to 23-1-2 and move on to face the winner of UCLA and Duke in the College Cup.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that we fell in double overtime to what would have been our first trip to the College Cup,” said head coach G Guerrieri. “You’ve got to hand it to North Carolina, they were outstanding and did a great job of keeping us under pressure. There were some fantastic battles throughout the game all over the field. I feel for my players, because I thought they did a great job of leaving it all on the field today.”
North Carolina fired off the first four shots of the match, but the Aggie defense was solid blocking two and forcing the other two off frame.
At the 20-minute mark, freshman Beth West controlled the ball in A&M’s attacking third and lobbed a cross to senior Laura Grace Robinson, but the midfielder was unable to redirect the pass to sophomore Whitney Hooper and UNC goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris gathered the ball in the six-yard box.
The Aggies’ first shot was a good one and it came with four minutes remaining in the first half. The ball was played to the right side to senior Micah Stephens who cleared it into A&M’s attacking half. After a throw-in on the left side, freshman Rachael Balaguer crossed the ball into the six-yard box. Robinson went up and headed a shot that Harris just got her right hand on to keep out of the goal and the two teams went into the 15-minute break scoreless.
Possession continued back and forth in the second half and in the 54th minute, a cleared ball by freshman Bri Young was flicked by on to a sprinting Hooper. The forward got a shot off in the box that was gathered by UNC goalkeeper Anna Rodenbough.
Two minutes later, freshman Becca Herrera lifted a shot from 35 yards that skimmed off the top of the crossbar.
Another scoring opportunity came on a free kick from 30 yards in the 73rd minute as Young blasted a shot on frame that Rodenbough caught for the save.
A&M earned its first corner kick in the 81st minute and Herrera’s bender bounced out to the corner of the box where sophomore Rachel Shipley put the ball right back in to keep the Aggies on the attack. Young touched the ball on to Robinson who netted her ninth goal of the season inside the back post.
After a free kick two minutes later, the Tar Heels’ Allie Long struck a shot that hit the crossbar and on the rebound Courtney Jones found the back of the net to even the game at one goal apiece.
The Tar Heels earned a corner kick with one minute remaining and Herrera cleared a shot off the line to force the match into overtime.
In the first overtime period, sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Dyer made a key save in the 93rd minute as Brittani Bartok sent a cross to the far post where Tobin Heath’s shot was stopped by Dyer on her knees. The native of Germantown, Tenn., then caught the resulting corner kick to keep the Aggies out of danger.
A&M moved into a second overtime with the 19-time national champions and after UNC earned another corner kick in the 102nd minute, Ali Hawkins fired a shot that was blocked on the line by Shipley. The ball was loose and found the foot of Hawkins and from eight yards, she drove home the winning goal.
“When we scored in the 80st minute, I thought we had it,” said Guerrieri. “I thought that we were going to get through. Hat’s off to UNC for being able to come back.”