It took 100 minutes, two overtimes and three shootout rounds but No. 1 UConn ultimately punched their ticket to the National Championship Game with a 2-1 win over No. 4 North Carolina.
The two teams struggled to settle into their offenses to start the game. Turnovers plagued both teams in a half played primarily away from the scoring areas. The only shot on goal in the first half belonged to UNC which UConn goalkeeper Nina Klein turned away.
The Huskies broke the scoring drought in the beginning of the second half on a penalty corner opportunity.
Charlotte Veitner inserted the ball into play and then made a beeline to the left post where Margot van Hecking Colenbrander fed her with a pass. The ball deflected off Veitner’s stick and upwards into the goal to give UConn the 1-0 lead.
A few moments later, the Tar Heels had an excellent chance to even the game on a penalty stroke. Ashley Hoffman drew the penalty, setting up a mano-a-mano duel with Klein. Hoffman went left and so did Klein, stopping the shot with a diving save.
With about 10 minutes left in the game it looked like UNC had gotten their game-tying goal when Eva van’t Hoog scored on a rebound chance she golfed over Klein. After a lengthy review, the referees determined the ball hit a body in front of the net and the goal was waved off.
Eva van’t Hoog eventually did find the back of the net again and this one stuck.
The midfielder tied it on UNC’s 10th penalty corner of the day after collecting a feed from Gab Major.
UNC got a chance to win the game with triple zeros on the clock after drawing another penalty corner as the horn sounded but the Huskies deflected the shot.
For a second straight year the Huskies would be forced to go to OT against North Carolina in the national semifinals.
Last year, Lauren Moyer sent the Huskies packing after tacking a pass from Malin Evert in the circle and beating Klein. Well, Moyer has graduated and there was no topping Klein on this day.
Klein, the program’s winningest goalkeeper, stood tall in net; she racked up 13 saves on the day, several of which required a Herculean effort.
After surviving both overtimes, the Huskies were nothing short of perfect in the shootout round.
Veitner, Casey Umstead and Amanda Collins went 3-3, hitting UNC goalkeeper Amanda Hendry with a flurry of moves that even an NHL goalie would have a hard time handling. Klein denied all three of UNC’s attempts.
UConn will now play the winner of Michigan/Maryland in the National Championship Game on Sunday.
A champion will be crowned this Sunday at 2 p.m.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.