UCLA women’s soccer pulls off miracle comeback to take NCAA title

It’s about pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and then there’s what UCLA just did.

1-seeded UCLA clinched their second national title Monday night, beating North Carolina 3-2 in overtime and taking revenge on the 2000 championship game. North Carolina dominated the first half but went into halftime in a tie. UCLA blitzed the tar heels in the second half and scored with 17 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Only UCLA came close to scoring in overtime, but the Bruins had to wait until the middle of the second overtime to get a look at the net. On the first, VAR had to confirm that the Tar Heels had blocked a shot from Reilyn Turner. But when Maricarmen Reyes hit a deflected defense at net with a touch two minutes later, no replay was needed: the Bruins were 3-2 up with just 3-20 to play.

UCLA had to make some adjustments at halftime, and it wasn’t long before it became clear that adjustments were being made. It took the Bruins just minutes to reel off two high quality transition shots of Sunshine Fontes. And they were able to get back on attacking form after Avery Patterson’s goal, passing North Carolina 11-4 by the end of regulation. Winger Lexi Wright hit the net in the 79th minute. With the Heels leading 2-1, that just seemed to be enough to make the final minutes a little more exciting.

But UCLA never let up. And just 30 seconds from time, Ally Lemos served up a perfect corner – it could have been a direct goal but Turner headed it off the far post just to be safe.

UCLA’s offensive barrage in the second half allowed few breaks for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels made the most of it. In the 58th minute, they converted an interception into a counterattack, received a cross from Emily Moxley down the right wing and the Bruins couldn’t cover everyone. Patterson got into their defender with a free header to open the scoring.

Just in case, the Tar Heels repeated the process in the 74th minute, but Libby Moore served the crosser. As if it deserved karmic justice for the halftime tie, UCLA trailed 0-2 despite controlling most of the second half.

In stark contrast to their semifinal win over Alabama, the Bruins were heeled early on. North Carolina dominated possession through midfield tackling and interceptions for the first 35 minutes. The Tar Heels midfielders pressed better than the Bruins, and the North Carolina backline consistently took turns cutting UCLA’s passing angles. The Tar Heels never got too close to a goal: North Carolina only had three shots on goal, all low-percentage shots going straight at goaltender Lauren Brzykcy.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-12-05/ucla-north-carolina-soccer-college-cup-final-recap UCLA women’s soccer pulls off miracle comeback to take NCAA title

Emma Bowman

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