By Bobby Hundley, UNC Athletic Communications
Carolina's championship history has no shortage of dramatic moments.
Michael Jordan and Charlotte Smith both won NCAA basketball titles with plays that could be described simply as The Shot. The famous 1957 title squad finished a perfect 32-0 but only after playing six overtimes in two days to beat Michigan State and Kansas in the Final Four.
The 2001 men's soccer championship team needed four overtimes to escape Stanford in the national semifinals. Ten years later, goalie Scott Goodwin saved two UCLA penalties in the semis before Ben Speas scored a wonder goal to beat Charlotte in the final.
Field hockey won its sixth NCAA crown in 2009 when Danielle Forword connected off a penalty corner with 11.7 seconds left to beat No. 1 Maryland. That win came 20 years after UNC's first field hockey title, when the Tar Heels topped Old Dominion on penalty strokes to claim the 1989 championship.
In 1986, Willie Scroggs' fifth-seeded Carolina men's lacrosse team defeated No. 1 Johns Hopkins and No. 3 Virginia in overtime by matching 10-9 scorelines to win the program's third of four national titles.
Even UNC women's soccer - the most successful program in college sports with 22 national championships - has needed some magic to win on occasion. The 2000 Tar Heels entered the postseason with more losses than they'd suffered in 20 years and trailed UCLA 1-0 in the national title game with less than 15 minutes remaining. But Meredith Florance and Catherine Reddick produced two late goals to keep the NCAA title trophy in Chapel Hill. Eight years later, Carolina conceded a goal to unbeaten and untied Notre Dame in the opening minute before a Casey Nogueira double - the second coming in the 88th minute - stunned the Irish.
On Monday afternoon in Charlottesville, Va., freshman Whitney Kay wrote the latest incredible chapter in the story of Carolina's championship tradition. In the closest thing the sport of team tennis has to sudden-death overtime, Kay outlasted UCLA senior Pamela Montez in a third-set tiebreak in the last of six singles matches to clinch the ITA National Team Indoor Championship for the Tar Heels.
As far as championship runs go, this one rivals any of the greats that have come before it. Carolina, which entered the event as the No. 6 seed, opened with a 4-0 win over Texas A&M before facing the top three seeds in three days. The Tar Heels defeated third-seeded USC in the quarterfinals before thrashing archrival Duke, the No. 2 seed, in the semis.
Top-seeded UCLA awaited in the finals after the defending champion Bruins had taken down Nebraska, Miami and Georgia.
Just as they had in the quarters against USC, the Tar Heels stumbled in doubles and found themselves in an early 1-0 hole. It was 2-0 UCLA when senior Gina Suarez-Malaguti came up with one of the best wins of her career over undefeated and sixth-ranked Robin Anderson. Anderson didn't drop a set at the 2011 event in leading the Bruins to the title and had already won the individual national indoor crown earlier this season. But Suarez-Malaguti, who is playing at the top position for the first time as a senior, took down the talented sophomore in straight sets to give UNC a lifeline.
And after junior Tessa Lyons and sophomore Caroline Price both won their matches, Carolina was suddenly just one win away from the title.
Kay and senior Zoe De Bruycker were left for the Tar Heels, but De Bruycker had fallen behind 5-1 in the final set of her match on court two. That De Bruycker was still playing at all was key for Carolina, as the Saratoga, Calif., senior grinded out a second set win to extend her match and keep the pressure off Kay and on the Bruins.
Kay actually had a chance to end the dual before her tiebreak, leading 5-4 with Montez facing a match point against her serve at 30-40. But Kay missed a swinging volley and Montez held for 5-all. The two traded service holds to force a championship-deciding tiebreak.
De Bruycker was still battling on court two as Kay got out to an early 4-2 lead in the breaker. With Kay holding three match points up 6-3 in the tiebreak, De Bruycker finally fell to even the dual at 3. Montez won the next two points on her serve but Kay ended a short rally with a clean crosscourt winner to win the match and send her teammates racing onto the court to embrace her.
Like the first women's soccer title in 1981 (won under the banner of the AIAW) or the Helms Foundation men's basketball championship of 1924, observers may not give this accomplishment its due because it didn't have the NCAA logo attached to it. But make no mistake, the ITA National Team Indoor event is a major championship won by a championship-caliber team. And it was won in typically dramatic Tar Heel fashion.