UNC Holds Off BC to Claim Third NCAA Championship


Sam Geirsbach (36) celebrates with Andie Aldave (31) and Ally Mastroianni (12) after a UNC goal Sunday in a 12-11 NCAA championship game win over Boston College.

BALTIMORE — Two days after staging one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA tournament history, North Carolina left nothing to chance in the final seconds of the championship game Sunday.

Brooklyn Neumen chased down a draw control near the sideline with 7.7 seconds left, drew a foul and upon the restart launched the ball toward the opposite end, as the top-seeded Tar Heels hung on for a 12-11 victory over third-seeded Boston College in front of an announced sellout of 8,500 at Homewood Field.

North Carolina (22-0) is the 11th undefeated champion in NCAA history and just the second team to run the table in the last 12 years.

The Tar Heels, who were bounced in the previous three semifinals before overcoming an eight-goal deficit to defeat Northwestern on Friday, had to go through the defending national champion to complete the feat. They beat BC three times this year.

“It doesn’t surprise me that it was a one-goal game,” North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said. “We’ve lost a lot of one-goal games with this crew in the final four. It’s nice to be on the other side of it.”

Semifinal hero Sam Geiersbach scored three goals, including the go-ahead tally with 5:26 remaining. The graduate transfer from Richmond tiptoed the crease and scored while looking at the lined goal circle beneath her feet to give the Tar Heels an 11-10 lead.

Geiersbach, who scored five goals in less than five minutes as North Carolina stormed back to beat Northwestern 15-14 in the semifinals, said she knew this would be the Tar Heels year. “I just wanted a piece of it,” she said Friday.

Named the NCAA championship’s most outstanding player, Geiersbach reiterated that Sunday.

“That was my intention in transferring to a school like UNC,” she said, “to win a national championship.”

Scottie Rose Growney added a crucial insurance goal with 2:23 left. Her lefty blast from the alley held up as the game-winner, as Eagles midfielder Cassidy Weeks scored off a mad scramble for a loose ball with 14.9 seconds remaining to make it a one-goal game.

Boston College’s Charlotte North and North Carolina’s Ally Mastroianni lined up for the ensuing draw. The ball flew into the Tar Heels defensive half of the field as all six players on the circle gave chase. Neumen was first to the ball. Courtney Taylor fouled her in the back and Neumen heaved the ball the other way.

A championship weekend of thrilling finishes ended with Tar Heels attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger scrapping for the ball on the turf against Eagles defender Melanie Welch as the final seconds waned, after which North Carolina stormed the field to celebrate its third NCAA championship and first since 2016.

That was also the last time the Tar Heels made the championship game before this year’s run. They were upset by Navy in the 2017 quarterfinals and James Madison in the 2018 semifinals, lost in a double-overtime classic against Boston College in the 2019 semifinals and fell a goal short against BC again in the final four last year.

North Carolina brought back several fifth-year players — including Tewaaraton finalists Jamie Ortega and Ally Mastroianni — and added two graduate transfers in Geiersbach and Andie Aldave (Notre Dame). Goalie Taylor Moreno is a sixth-year senior.

“I wanted it so bad for them,” Levy said. “I keep going. They only have this one last shot.”

Moreno, who was pulled briefly from Friday’s semifinal but came back to make a crucial last-minute stop to preserve North Carolina’s 15-14 comeback win against Northwestern, made 11 saves in Sunday’s final. She said assistant coach Phil Barnes texted her Sunday morning reminding her to play her game and block out distractions.

“Friday for me stung a little bit. I knew that I’m better than that,” Moreno said. “The first part in growing as a player is acknowledging when you don’t play well. My teammates had my back on Friday and I knew I was the one that had to have their backs this time.”

North finished with a game-high four goals in the loss for Boston College (19-4), which was playing in its fifth straight NCAA final. The reigning Tewaaraton winner, who spent her first two seasons at Duke and three at BC, graduates as the NCAA’s all-time leader with 358 career goals and arguably the biggest draw the game has ever seen.

Eagles coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein noted that while Sunday’s championship game was the sixth-highest attended NCAA final in history, BC-UNC had nearly 6,000 fans on hand for a regular season game March 20 in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The Tar Heels won 16-15, but the tunnel from the field to the locker rooms at Alumni Stadium was mobbed by selfie seekers awaiting North.

“That’s really the legacy,” Walker-Weinstein said. “Watching thousands and thousands of people follow our team around the country to watch them play.”

Levy said North Carolina had a similar experience when the team went out for dinner Thursday night in Baltimore. Fans were treated to a pair of classics Friday. Following the Tar Heels’ epic comeback, Boston College staged some theatrics of its own when it scored the last four goals and defeated Maryland 17-16 on Cassidy Weeks’ game winner with 18.8 seconds left.

Sunday’s final was equally as taut, if not as volatile. North Carolina led by three early but went cold in third quarter as Boston College chipped away. North scored on a rollback to her left to punctuate a four-goal run and put the Eagles up 8-7.

Boston College made good on its plan to slow the pace of the game and operate predominantly in half-field sets. It was 9-8 early in the fourth quarter when the Tar Heels finally unlocked their transition game.

Limited to just two shots while face-guarded by Eagles defender Melanie Welch, Ortega saw an opening up field after Olivia Dirks scooped a ground ball off a BC turnover. Dirks flung a pass to Ortega in stride and Ortega scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 9.

A minute later, UNC scored on another fast break, this time off a save by Moreno. She sent an outlet to defender Brooklyn Walker-Welch, who caught the ball over here left shoulder, sprinted into the offensive zone and passed it to Andie Aldave, who fed Nicole Humphrey on the doorstep for another goal for a 10-9 Tar Heels lead.

They never trailed again.


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