UNC advanced to the national championship game with a 1-0 double overtime victory over Stanford on Friday. Penn State defeated Florida State 2-1 in overtime in the first semifinal game on Friday.
North Carolina was the #2 seed in the lower left quadrant of the NCAA Division I Tournament bracket and advanced to the semifinals against Stanford by beating the BYU Cougars in the NCAA quarterfinals 2-1 in double overtime in Provo, Utah on November 23. The Cougars were the #1 seed in the lower left quadrant of the NCAA bracket.
Carolina was the only non-No. 1 seed to advance to the NCAA College Cup. #1 seeds Stanford, Penn State and Florida State all made the final 4 teams.
UNC is ranked #14 in the final Soccer America poll and #13 in the final NSCAA coaches poll heading into Sunday's game against Penn State which finished sixth in the final Soccer America ratings and fifth in the final NSCAA rankings.
Carolina is 14-5-3 entering Sunday's national championship game while Penn State is 21-3-2.
SUNDAY'S TELEVISION INFORMATION: North Carolina and Penn State will meet at 4 p.m. EST Sunday afternoon in the NCAA championship game to be televised nationally on ESPNU. The game will be also be shown on WatchESPN.com.
Beth Mowins will serve as the play-by-play announcer with Stanford alumnus Julie Foudy serving as the analyst and UNC alumnus Cat (Reddick) Whitehill serving as the sideline reporter.
CAROLINA BACK TO THE COLLEGE CUP: North Carolina returned this season to the College Cup for the first time since 2009. It marks the 26th NCAA College Cup appearance for Carolina in the 31-year history of the tournament.
With a 2-1 double overtime win over BYU in the quarterfinal round, UNC improved all-time to a remarkable 25-0-1 in NCAA Tournament quarterfinal games. The only blemish came in 2005 when UNC and Florida State played to a 1-1 tie in the quarterfinals with the Seminoles advancing to the NCAA semifinals 5-4 on penalty kicks.
The win also assured the fact that the Tar Heels have never gone more than two years without making the College Cup. UNC failed to make the College Cup in back-to-back years in 2004 and 2005 and again in 2010 and 2011. The other season in which the Tar Heels fell short of the College Cup was 2007.
CAROLINA IN NCAA TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL GAMES: With the 1-0 double overtime win over Stanford on Friday, Carolina improved in NCAA Tournament semifinal games to an all-time record of 24-2 in semifinal contests. UNC's semifinal losses came against Notre Dame in 1995 and against Santa Clara in 2002.
CAROLINA IN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: Carolina is 20-3 all-time in NCAA Championship games. UNC's lone losses in the NCAA final came against George Mason in 1985 (2-0), Florida in 1998 (1-0) and Santa Clara in 2001 (1-0).
DUNN, OHAI AND ELBY SPARK QUARTERFINAL WIN: UNC advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals by beating second-ranked BYU November 23 by a 2-1 score in double overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals. Crystal Dunn scored both goals for the Tar Heels, in the fourth and 107th minutes, with Kealia Ohai assisting on both goals. Sophomore Brooke Elby also made an incredible game-saving back save on a breakaway by BYU's Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall in the first overtime period that kept the game tied at 1-1 and set up Dunn's game-winning heroics in the 107th minute.
Dunn has five goals this season, all in NCAA Tournament games - one each against Radford, Illinois and Baylor and two against BYU.
TAR HEELS MAKING A HABIT OF ENDING LONG WINNING STREAKS: In the first five rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels eliminated a quartet of teams which headed into the post-season amongst the hottest teams in the country.
In the NCAA first round, UNC met Radford, winning 2-0. The Highlanders came into that match on a 17-game unbeaten string (13-0-4) and had not lost since a 1-0 setback at East Tennessee State on August 26, 2012.
In the NCAA third round, UNC faced Baylor, advancing 4-2 on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 double overtime tie. The Bears came into that match on a 20-game unbeaten string (16-0-4) and had not lost since a 2-1 setback at Long Beach State on August 26, 2012.
In the NCAA quarterfinals, UNC matched up against BYU, winning 2-1 in double overtime. The Cougars came into that match on a 21-game unbeaten string (19-0-2) and had not lost since a 1-0 setback at Utah on August 25, 2012 (BYU can't play Sunday games so that match was on a Saturday).
In the NCAA semifinals, UNC met up with Stanford, winning 1-0 in double overtime. The Cardinal came into that match on a 20-game unbeaten string (19-0-1). Stanford had not lost since a 1-0 setback at West Virginia on August 26, 2012.
TAR HEELS END OVERTIME HEX: When UNC defeated BYU 2-1 in double overtime in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on November 23, it notched its first overtime win since August 26, 2011 when the Tar Heels beat #1 Notre Dame 2-1 in overtime at Fetzer Field.
In the nine overtime games since the win over Notre Dame, UNC had gone 0-4-5. UNC was 0-4-2 in its last six overtime games of 2011 and 0-0-3 in its first three overtime games of 2012.
UNC continued to excel in overtime in the NCAA semifinals as the Tar Heels notched their second straight overtime win by beating top-ranked Stanford 1-0 in double overtime.
Carolina's four overtime losses in 2011 were all the more remarkable for the fact the Tar Heels lost only six overtime games in their 32 pervious years of program history (1979-2010).
THREE STRAIGHT OVERTIMES IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: North Carolina has advanced in the 2012 Tournament via extra time in the third round, quarterfinals and semifinals. A penalty kick survival against Baylor was followed by double overtime wins against BYU and Stanford.
Prior to 2012, Carolina played in a total of nine overtime games in its NCAA Tournament history and never more than one game in any tournament.
CAROLINA'S BALANCED SCORING: The 2012 UNC team is not one of the highest scoring teams in UNC history, but it is one of the most balanced scoring teams. Carolina's 51 goals are the second lowest total in Tar Heel history (44 in 2011).
Summer Green and Kealia Ohau share status as UNC's leading scorer with 21 points each but seven Tar Heels overall have between 12 and 21 points on this team. Amber Brooks has 20, Maria Lubrano 18, Ranee Premji 15, Crystal Dunn 14 and Alyssa Rich 12. Ohai leads the Tar Heels with eight goals while three Tar Heels - Green, Brooks, and Lubrano - have seven goals each and six have at least five assists, led by Premji with nine.
A RARE PENALTY KICK WIN FOR THE TAR HEELS: When North Carolina advanced past Baylor in the NCAA Tournament third round, it marked the first time in history that Carolina had won a penalty kick shootout in NCAA Tournament play and only the second time the Tar Heels had advanced on penalty kicks in any setting.
After playing to a 1-1 overtime tie with Baylor on November 18, UNC prevailed 4-2 on penalty kicks. Successful penalty takers for UNC included Maria Lubrano, Alyssa Rich, Kelly McFarlane and Katie Bowen.
UNC had lost two previous NCAA Tournament shootouts. The Heels fell to Florida State 5-4 in the 2005 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals and 5-4 to UCF in the 2011 NCAA Tournament third round.
The Tar Heels had also been in four ACC Tournament penalty kick shooutouts, going 1-3. UNC lost in the ACC finals on penalty kicks against NC State in 1988 and against Virginia in 2004. In ACC Tournament semifinal games, UNC prevailed on penalty kicks against Virginia in 2007 while falling to Wake Forest in 2010.
ANOTHER NCAA BID: When Carolina made the 2012 NCAA Tournament field it marked UNC's 31st successive bid to the NCAA Tournament. Carolina is the only team in the nation to make the tournament field all 31 years of the Tournament's existence.
UNC has advanced to the Round of 16 or beyond in every NCAA Tournament ever played. Each of the previous two years, however, it was the third round game that had tripped UNC up. Carolina fell to Notre Dame in 2010 and to UCF in 2011. Carolina's last quarterfinals appearance was in 2009 against Wake Forest. The Tar Heels beat the Demon Deacons 5-2 and advanced to the College Cup.
Carolina's game November 23 at BYU marked the 27th time in school history that the Tar Heels had played in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. It was UNC's first-ever road game in the Round of 8 in NCAA history. The Tar Heels had played all 26 previous quarterfinal games in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels had been a top four seed on all of those occasions except 2000 when Carolina was a No. 5 seed. But fourth-seeded Nebraska was upset in the third round that year by UConn, allowing that Tar Heel team also host an NCAA quarterfinal.
Prior to the game at BYU, UNC had last played a true road game in the NCAA Tournament in the 1996 NCAA semifinals when it won 2-1 at Santa Clara.
NINE GOALS VERUS ILLINOIS: Carolina exploded for nine goals in its second round NCAA Tournament victory over Illinois on November 16. The nine goals were the most scored in a game by UNC since it defeated Guilford 9-0 on September 6, 2002. The last time UNC had scored nine goals against an NCAA Division I opponent was September 21, 2001 in a 9-0 win over Georgia. The nine goals scored by Carolina matched its high scoring output in an NCAA Tournament game. The last time UNC had scored nine goals in an NCAA game was November 21, 1996 in a 9-0 win over Florida in the quarterfinals. The nine goals were one short of the NCAA Tournament record of 10 set by Texas A&M against Texas State in 2004.
UNC's NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD: Carolina has an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 114-8-3. The Tar Heels have won 20 of the previous 30 NCAA Tournament championships. Carolina's last title came in 2009 when it defeated Stanford 1-0 in College Station, Texas.
Carolina has lost only eight NCAA Tournament games in history and has made at least the Round of 16 in each of the 31 tournaments.
UNC VERUS PENN STATE: Carolina 4-1 all-time against Penn State, including a mark of 2-0 in NCAA Tournament meetings. The Nittany Lions won the first ever meeting of the teams in 1999 but Carolina has won the last four matchups against Penn State.
FINAL REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS FOR THE TAR HEELS: UNC was ranked 14th in the Soccer America poll and 13th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll heading into NCAA Tournament play.
SOCIAL MEDIA: You can follow match action on Twitter at @ncwomenssoccer (official feed) and @uncwomenssoccer (players feed).
Live stats for the match will also be available on GoHeels.com.
THE NCAA RPI: North Carolina finished 10th in the final RPI report from the NCAA which was issued on November 5, 2012. On paper that would indicate the Tar Heels would be worthy of a #3 seed in the tournament. Instead, Carolina was elevated to a #2 seed by the NCAA Women's Soccer Committee.
It would appear likely that the Tar Heels benefitted greatly from its strength of schedule. UNC's 21-game schedule has featured a Who's Who of the top levels of the RPI. This included two games against #7 Virginia as well as single games against #1 Stanford, #4 BYU, #5 Florida State, #8 Florida, #9 Baylor, #13 Marquette, #14 Duke, #16 Wake Forest, #19 Portland, #21 Notre Dame, #23 Boston College, #25 Maryland, #30 Virginia Tech, #44 Illinois and #50 Miami. UNC also played #67 San Diego, #69 Connecticut and #85 Radford.
Fifteen of UNC's 22 games so far are against teams ranked in the Top 30 of the RPI.
Penn State was ranked #3 in the final regular season RPI.
BROOKS NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA: University of North Carolina senior midfielder Amber Brooks was named to the Capital One Academic All-District III Team for the third successive year as announced November 1 by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
On November 29, Brooks was named a first-team Academic All-America by Capital One and CoSIDA
In 2011, Brooks was named a second-team Academic All-America by Capital One and CoSIDA.
The District III team represents student-athletes from the states of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Voting for the All-District Team is conducted by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America in those three states.
Brooks was also one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award.
THE ALL-TIME RECORD: UNC heads into its match against Penn State with a record of 742-49-29 overall, a winning percentage of .922.
AVERAGE RECORD PER YEAR: UNC's average record per year in its 34 years of soccer is 21.82 wins per year, 1.44 losses per year and 0.85 ties per year.
SIXTEEN ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAS SINCE 2005: UNC has had 16 selections for the Capital One Academic All-America first, second and third teams since 2005, including two players in 2011. Carolina also had seven women's soccer players named Academic All-Americas from 1983-2001, giving the program 23 selections since the Academic All-America program began in 1983. Following is a summary of the 16 selections from 2005-11.
- 2005 - Heather O'Reilly, second team; Lindsay Tarpley, third team.
- 2006 - Heather O'Reilly, first team (Academic All-America of the Year); Anna Rodenbough, second team; Yael Averbuch, third team.
- 2007 - Yael Averbuch, second team; Anna Rodenbough, second team.
- 2008 - Kristi Eveland, first team; Yael Averbuch, first team (Academic All-America of the Year); Anna Rodenbough, second team.
- 2009 - Kristi Eveland, first team; Whitney Engen, second team; Ashlyn Harris, second team.
- 2011 - Adelaide Gay, first team; Amber Brooks, second team.
- 2011 - Amber Brooks, first team.