Kingman’s goal lifts fourth-seeded UNC past Notre Dame
CHARLESTON, S.C. (theACC.com) – For the first time in seven seasons, North Carolina is back in the Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Soccer Championship title game.
Annie Kingman took a pass from Bridgette Andrzejewski and slammed home the tie-breaking goal from 14 yards out with 4:47 remaining to lift the fourth-seeded Tar Heels to a 2-1 win over top-seeded Notre Dame in Friday’s opening semifinal match at MUSC Health Stadium.
UNC (13-3-3) moved on to Sunday’s noon championship game, where it will face the winner of Friday night’s second semifinal match between No. 2 seeded Clemson and No. 5 Florida State. The game, which will be televised nationally by ESPU, will mark a return to once-familiar territory for the Tar Heels, who captured 20 of the first 22 ACC Championships and reached the finals every year from 1988 through 2009.
Notre Dame (13-3-4), ranked as high as sixth nationally, remains in good standing for an at-large berth and high seeding in the NCAA Championship when the field is announced Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The Tar Heels, who avenged a 1-0 loss to the Fighting Irish during the regular season, answered a game-tying goal by Notre Dame earlier in the second half to win their fifth consecutive match.
“After they scored, we kind of woke up a little bit,” said Kingman, who notched her fifth goal of the season. “We had kind of let them sneak back into the game and get a few opportunities. We really started pushing hard. We subbed some people in with fresh legs and started getting back after them.”
Andrzejewski, the ACC Freshman of the Year and UNC’s leading scorer, registered her second assist of the year.
“I saw Bridgette moving down the line, and nine times out of 10 she is going to beat her defender,” Kingman said. “So I just tried to get in the box, get in good position and keep the shot low and on frame.”
UNC struck for the first goal of the match with 23:30 remaining in the first half. Following a yellow card on Notre Dame’s Ginny McGowan, Kingman lined a free kick that struck the right post. The ball caromed just in front of the mouth of the goal, and UNC defender Maya Worth alertly charged in to punch in her first goal of the season.
The Tar Heels’ 1-0 edge held up until the halftime break. UNC outshot the Fighting Irish 9-3 in the first 45 minutes and held a 4-0 advantage in shots on goal. But Notre Dame goalkeeper Kaela Little made three saves to keep her team just a score down.
“We had a very poor first half,” Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “I thought they came out with a lot of good pressure and energy. We did not control the ball at all. We were defending for most of the first half.”
Notre Dame got on the board with just under 19 minutes remaining in the match, as Kaleigh Olmstead broke into the open field, slipped past UNC keeper Lindsey Harris about 15 yards from the goal, and raced home for an uncontested score to tie the match at 1-1. The goal was Olmstead’s fourth of the season and the first surrendered by the Tar Heels in their last three matches.
But UNC answered less than 15 minutes later to earn a spot in Sunday’s final.
“Of course it was deflating (when Notre Dame scored), but this group of girls has so much fight in them,” Kingman said. “We just scrap and fight for every goal we get. If you look at our goals throughout the season, some of them are pretty, but most of them are just the result of hard efforts. Letting them tie the score was not ideal, but I kind of sensed from the beginning that tonight was not going to be our last game in this tournament.”
It marked the first time Notre Dame had yielded two goals in a match since battle top-ranked Stanford to a 2-2 tie at Palo Alto on September 11.
“Notre Dame is a tough team to score against, and for us to get two is a real achievement,” UNC head coach Anson Dorrance said. “I’m also happy that after they tied the score, the team continued to grind and got the goal to win the game. This is a team that has really improved dramatically since August. We were the most ordinary of teams in August, and now we’re pretty solid. I’m very proud of our kids and very excited to be in an ACC final.”