The No. 2 Georgetown women’s soccer team (21-1-3, 8-0-1 Big East) fell 1-0 in double overtime against No. 3 North Carolina (21-3-2, 10-0 ACC) in the NCAA Tournament semifinal on Friday night. Senior defender Julia Ashley scored the winner for the Tar Heels in the 108th minute.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys,” head coach Dave Nolan said of his team. “Credit to all our kids for a great year and for leaving everything on the field tonight the way champions should.”
The first half was an even affair, with both teams taking control of the match at different times. The Hoyas were on top early, with sophomore midfielder Grace Nguyen shooting wide in the ninth minute. Senior goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman came off her line and slid at the feet of a Tar Heels attacker in the 15th minute as the Tar Heels began to take control of the midfield and create chances of their own.
The game began to open up, and in the 21st minute, senior forward Caitlin Farrell got the better of her defender and played a dangerous cross into the box, but UNC’s senior goalkeeper Samantha Leshnak parried it well and the Heels shuffled the ball out for a corner. Senior forward Alex Kimball dragged a shot wide for the Tar Heels a minute later, before Nguyen had another shot at goal in the 25th minute, this one flying just over the bar.
“It got a little bit too much of a track meet for me,” Nolan said. “We would have liked to try and possess the ball a little bit better.”
The first half was split almost exactly down the middle for shots, with the Hoyas taking five and the Tar Heels taking four. As UNC got more comfortable though, the game stretched out, and Georgetown struggled to keep up with the Tar Heels’ midfielders.
“I thought Arielle was tremendous,” Nolan said. “You could see the pressure Chapel Hill was putting us under, particularly on corner kicks, and that’s kind of meat and potatoes from Arielle. She did a great job of dealing with all that stuff, and she’s got that poise. She’s the best goalkeeper in the college game.”
Senior midfielder Dorian Bailey forced Schechtman into another big save after creating space for herself in the 48th minute at the top of the box. Schechtman was increasingly busy, and as the rain began to fall, a cross slipped through her fingers in the 56th minute, but junior defender Meaghan Nally was able to force an off-balance shot and a goal kick. As UNC kept possession of the ball, the Hoyas began to tire in defense, and sophomore defender Emily Fox danced around two defenders in the box before shooting over the bar in the 73rd minute.
In the 83rd minute, the Hoyas blocked another UNC shot, and Schechtman chased after the ball looking to prevent a corner. She couldn’t get there, and landed awkwardly on her knee. Her season ended being helped off the field, and junior goalkeeper Lauren Gallagher stepped in, seeing her first action since September.
“Coming into the 80th minute of any game is going to be tough, especially in an atmosphere like this,” Gallagher said.
Two minutes after Gallagher came onto the field, junior forward Madison Schultz won a penalty for the Tar Heels. Sophomore midfielder Taylor Otto took it and drove it high down the middle, but Gallagher managed to get her left hand up to tip it over the bar. The Hoyas cleared the corner and Farrell got a shot off in the 87th minute, dragging it wide with her left foot. Neither team came any closer for the rest of the period, leading to overtime.
“When we caught them in transition, when they were high, and now we were going two against two at the back against their center backs, that would probably be my only disappointment,” Nolan said. “We had some moments where I felt we could’ve gotten a little bit more out of a two v. two going at the back.”
UNC freshman midfielder Brianna Pinto won a free kick on the edge of Georgetown’s box early in the first overtime period, but the wall blocked the shot. Another chance fell for Otto in the 99th minute, but she couldn’t poke her shot past Gallagher, who came out to close down the angle and force the shot wide.
“I think after the penalty save, she really just bloomed right in front of us,” Nolan said of Gallagher. “She seemed to get taller. I think she was six-feet tall by the end of it.”
The Tar Heels continued to push for the winner and nearly found it again in the 102nd minute. Ashley got her head to a corner, but Gallagher reached high to catch the shot.
Georgetown made a run forward in the 108th minute, but the cross from senior forward Amanda Carolan was blocked by the Carolina defense, and the Tar Heels then came the other way. Ashley played a one-two on the edge of the box with Dorwart, and Ashley finished into the bottom left corner to end the game.
North Carolina advances to the National Championship game on Sunday, while the Hoyas’ season ends at the semifinal stage for the second time in three years.
“Their goal kind of came off our attacking moment, when we got end line in their box, and we committed numbers in because we wanted to try and win the game,” Nolan said. “They cleared it, and then all of a sudden they were going the other way, and they did a good job.”
Despite the loss, 2018 was a historic season for the Hoyas, as they set a new program record with 21 wins, Schechtman broke the all-time program record for shutouts, and Farrell tied the single-season scoring record.
“It’s just been an incredible season, and for me an incredible senior season. I couldn’t ask literally anything more from my team. They have all been exceptional, and as much as I’ve been successful, it’s all because of the team,” Farrell said. “I couldn’t love my teammates any more, and as hard as it is to go out this way, it’s a great season, and no one can take that away from us.”
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Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice