The parallels were there. After a hard-fought match on a wet field, Stanford, wearing black, needed a missed kick to help defeat their baby-blue rivals. But while the football team booked a ticket to the Rose Bowl after a late field-goal miss from UCLA, the women’s soccer team’s season ended when North Carolina’s Kealia Ohai scored a breakaway in the 104th minute to give the Tar Heels a 1-0 win.
The No. 1 Cardinal (21-2-1), the defending national champions, came out with a vengeance against the No. 13 Tar Heels, a team they had never beaten in eleven tries. Although neither team scored in regular time, it was not for lack of trying.
In the 13th minute, senior captain Mariah Nogueira produced a rocket header from a Stanford corner kick, but the Tar Heels cleared the ball off the goal line. In the 26th minute, sophomore Chioma Ubogagu beat four UNC defenders and stroked a shot that went just wide.
The Tar Heels had chances as well in a first half that was played at a track meet pace. The Cardinal defense, led by recently named All-Americans seniors Rachel Quon and Alina Garciamendez, did well to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.
The second half was more of the same as two minutes into the half, Ubogagu had another opportunity. A free kick from Garciamendez skidded through the Tar Heels defense, but the Cardinal forward was unable to get a full foot on the shot.
Two minutes later, it was sophomore Lo’eau LaBonta with the opportunity. After UNC cleared a corner kick, Stanford senior Madeline Thompson sent a long ball back in. LaBonta snuck behind the UNC defense but her chip attempt went just over the crossbar.
Both teams continued to attack with speed but struggled to execute the final play. Both coaches also substituted frequently to keep up with the breakneck pace.
Goalkeeper Emily Oliver had a huge game for the Cardinal, collecting ten saves on the day. The Tar Heels had opportunities from everywhere but the junior handled everything cleanly — no small feat as consistent rain made for slippery conditions.
In a moment of controversy, Oliver came out to collect the ball with 11 minutes left. Although it appeared that she reached out of the penalty box, the referee decided not to make the call.
Stanford junior Sydney Payne had two great chances in the final 10 minutes. With eight minutes left, Ubogagu’s dribbling set up Payne just inside the corner of the penalty box. The forward’s shot bent towards the far corner but didn’t have enough pace to beat UNC goalkeeper Adelaide Gay. Seconds later, Payne had another opportunity from the same spot. While this shot had enough power behind it, it skidded just past the far post.
After North Carolina cleared a last-gasp Cardinal free kick, the game headed into sudden-death overtime.
Halfway through the first of two 10-minute overtimes, Tar Heels junior Crystal Dunn broke down the Cardinal defense and laid a pass back to North Carolina midfielder Amber Brooks. The senior fired a missile that appeared locked on to the back of the net, but Oliver made a tremendous dive to deflect the ball out.
Towards the end of the first overtime, North Carolina began taking control of the game. That continued through the brief intermission as less than a minute into the second overtime, Ohai had a breakaway opportunity down the right side. Oliver knocked down the first opportunity and then the Cardinal defense cleared the rebound.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, it could only count on Oliver’s heroics for so long.
With six minutes remaining before penalty kicks, it was Dunn and Ohai again leading the attack. Dunn slipped a clever pass behind the Cardinal defense, and this time, Ohai didn’t miss. The senior All-American calmly placed her shot inside the far post to put the Tar Heels into the national championship game and the Cardinal back to Palo Alto.
Stanford ends the season with a 21-2-1 record and the Pac-12 championship. The team’s ten seniors end their careers with a 94-4-4 record, four Pac-10/12 championships, four Final Four appearances and the 2011 national championship.