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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Brown

UCLA Women’s Soccer Overcomes 2-0 Deficit to Defeat UNC 3-2 in National Championship

North Carolina goalkeeper Emmie Allen rises to make a catch during the 2022 NCAA National Championship game at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., Dec. 5. Photo by Aralynn Minnick

CARY, N.C. - The UCLA Bruins won their second NCAA national title last night 3-2 over North Carolina in a classic comeback thriller that lasted through double overtime.

The Los Angeles squad scored two goals in the last ten minutes of regulation to force the game into overtime, where they then solidified the win on a finish from Maricarmen Reyes. Reyes cried tears of joy after scoring with three minutes left in the second overtime.

UCLA Head Coach Margueritte Aosaza also established herself as the first coach in NCAA women’s soccer to win a national championship in her first season of coaching.

However, it didn’t look like she was going to accomplish that feat until almost the last possible second.

The first half of the game was fairly mellow, with neither side generating close chances on goal. North Carolina, who played with a true three-back, was able to stay afloat against UCLA’s three forwards, and actually appeared to have the better half due to their high pressure. For the first 45 minutes, it seemed like every time UCLA gained possession, they were immediately swarmed by multiple Tar Heels trying to win the ball back.

In the 21st minute, UNC pulled off their best effort on goal in the first half when Emily Moxley hit a free kick into the box and Julia Dorsey met the end of it. North Carolina’s Emmie Allen scooped up the ball with ease to deny the chance.

Sunshine Fontes showed her ability to be dangerous up top in the 28th minute after Reilyn Turner played a ball out to her on the right wing and she struck a powerful shot from inside the box that hit the side netting.

Halftime changed the energy of the game. The first goal came in the 59th minute when Moxley received the ball on the right side, took a few quick touches to offset her defender, and then sent in a cross that Avery Patternson headed into the far post, putting the Tar Heels up 1-0.

UNC’s next solid chance resulted in another goal. In the 75th minute, Libby Moore got a half chance to quickly settle and send a lofted ball into the box, and decided to take it. It was the right decision, as the ball once again found Patterson who redirected it to the far post with her head to bring the lead to 2-0.

UCLA immediately came knocking in response to the deficit. In the 80th minute, a free kick was sent into the box that was poorly cleared, and Fontes launched such a powerful half volley at Allen that all the UNC keeper could do was deflect it back out into traffic. Lexi Wright took advantage of the loose ball and slid a shot into the corner,

Patterson nearly completed a hattrick in the 81st minute when she received a ball on the left side and took on multiple UCLA defenders, driving toward the middle of the six yard box before taking a shot that was saved by Allen.

There’s a reason 2-0 is considered the most dangerous lead in soccer. With only 16 seconds left in regular time, UCLA took advantage of the momentum and scored when Turner headed in a corner by freshman Ally Lemos. The celebration was emotional as UCLA recognized they had saved their chance to capture a title in basically the last second.

“I told the team at halftime: ‘We’re going to get our chances and we’re going to score a set piece tonight.’” Aozasa said after the match. “I didn’t know it would be such a monumental set piece.”

Five minutes into the second overtime, another corner kick by UCLA nearly made it into the goal. A scramble in front of the net forced the referee to evaluate the play using VAR, but she determined that the ball never fully crossed the goal line.

Then, in the 107th minute, Reyes capitalized on a chance to secure the win. The play began with a cross played in from the left side. Ally Cook quickly turned to get her hips around the ball and pulled off a shot that was deflected by Allen. Reyes punched on the followup and scored to help UCLA win the match, 3-2.

“I do believe, too, that good things happen to good people,” Aosaza said after the game. “And this group especially is just full of special, special people.”

This was UCLA’s first national title since the team won in 2013. They finished their season 22-2-1, plus with the title of national champions.

UNC Head Coach Anson Dorrance, who has coached the women’s soccer team to 21 national championships in 44 seasons, said that the final was one of the most exciting he’s ever been involved in.

“Up and back, lots of goals, overtime, the drama of sport—one team goes up, the other one claws their way back,” Dorrance said. “I think everyone that participated in it, from the players on both rosters ought to be credited, because this was a wonderful sales piece for the women’s collegiate soccer game.”


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