"We want to congratulate the University of Connecticut for advancing to the national championship game," said UNC coach Karen Shelton, who led the Tar Heels to the final four for the 18th time in her 33 seasons with the program. "It was a gutsy performance on their part and even thought we're hugely disappointed, we're happy for their players and coaching staff. It was a game that was a little bit back-and-forth and, of course, grueling - two overtime periods are tough and to lose in a shootout is heartbreaking, but it's part of the game. I'm disappointed but happy for UConn."
UNC finishes its season 18-6 after reaching the final four for the fifth consecutive year and the sixth time in the past seven. The Tar Heels last won the title in 2009 and had reached the championship game but finished as the runner-up in each of the past three years.
This year it's Connecticut that will play in the final, facing No. 5 Duke on Sunday at 4 p.m. for the crown. The Blue Devils advanced with a 3-2 win over No. 1 Maryland in the first semifinal on Friday.
Friday's matchup was the second meeting between the Tar Heels and Huskies at Old Dominion's home field in less than a month. Just as in the first matchup, which UNC won 2-1 on Oct. 26 in a regular-season, neutral-site matchup, Connecticut scored first and led 1-0 at halftime.
The Huskies got on the board in the fifth minute of play on their first corner of the game. Marie Elena Bolles scored the goal, on a pass from Roisin Upton. UConn held the lead until the 44th minute, when Carolina tied it up. Tar Heel junior Charlotte Craddock dribbled into the circle and when UConn keeper Sarah Mansfield came out to play the ball, Craddock carried the ball to the left side of the cage and sent it behind the keeper to the right corner of the goal for her 13th goal of the year.
The game stayed knotted at 1-1 through the rest of regulation. Although the Tar Heels led 7-0 in shots in the second half, they were unable to pick up another goal.
In the seven-on-seven overtime periods, it was Connecticut that created more opportunities. The Huskies has three shots and a corner in the first period, and five shots and a corner in the second, while UNC didn't have a shot or corner in either period.
In the shootout, Connecticut went first and UNC keeper Sassi Ammer stopped the shot by Upton. But Mansfield stopped Casey Di Nardo's shot and UConn's Anne Jeute then made hers to give UConn a 1-0 lead. Next up for UNC were Emily Wold and Loren Shealy, neither of whom was able to score. Ammer stopped a shot by Bolles, but Chrissy Davidson was able to make hers, putting UConn ahead 2-0. Emma Bozek went fourth and when she was unable to score the Tar Heels were two down with only one shooter remaining, ending the game.
The game was the final one in Tar Heel jerseys for four seniors: Meghan Drake, a back from Fort Worth, Texas; Sinead Loughran, a forward from Dublin, Ireland; Rachel Magerman, a midfielder from Blue Bell, Pa; and Marta Malmberg, a midfielder/back from Marathon, N.Y. All four played in the final four in each year of their UNC careers. Also playing her final Carolina game was Janne Grove, a back from Hamburg, Germany, who is working toward her MBA at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School and had just one year of eligibility to play for the Tar Heels.
No. 4 Connecticut 2, No. 3 North Carolina 1, 2OT (penalty shootout)
Scoring: UConn - Marie Elena Bolles (Roisin Upton), 4:42; UNC - Charlotte Craddock, 43:43; UConn - 2-0 in penalty shootout
Shots: UNC 13 (6/7/0/0), UConn 12 (4/0/3/5)
Penalty corners: UNC 7 (2/5/0/0), UConn 5 (2/1/1/1)
Goalkeeper saves: UNC 7 (Sassi Ammer, 100:00; 1 goal allowed, 7 saves); UConn 4 (Sarah Mansfield, 100:00; 1 goal allowed, 4 saves)
Records: UNC 18-6; UConn 20-4