SAN DIEGO — Anson Dorrance has coached at North Carolina for all of the Tar Heels' 21 NCAA women's soccer championships, and he appreciates each title more and more.
A rare No. 2 seed and 13th ranked in the nation when the tournament began, North Carolina scored three goals in the second half to beat Penn State 4-1 Sunday for its latest championship. The Tar Heels (15-5-3), making their 26th appearance in the final four College Cup, won for the first time since 2009.
“The classic question is always does it ever get old,” said Dorrance, who has coached the program since its inception in 1979. “Well honestly it gets better. This was really a lot of fun for me … This is one of those years that it was a chemistry miracle.”
Penn State, which was playing in its first title game, finished its season at 21-4-2.
With the game tied 1-1, Hanna Gardner scored 48 seconds into the second half when she converted Katie Bowen's corner kick with a header past Penn State goalkeeper Erin McNulty. It was Gardner's second goal of the season.
“When our team scores goals it builds confidence,” said North Carolina's Kealia Ohai, who was selected the tournament's most outstanding player on offense. “And we kind of knew that if we could get one it would completely change the game. So when Hanna got that goal it really lifted our team.”
Penn State coach Erica Walsh also thought Gardner's goal turned the game in North Carolina's favor.
“The story of this game can be told in the timing of these goals,” Walsh said. “When you have the momentum, having tied the game in the first half and the second half is starting and everything is in front of you and all of a sudden there is a ball in the back of the net that you are picking out, you are constantly searching for answers at that point and that's what Carolina did to us, kept us looking for the next answer.”
And it did not come.
Satara Murray, who had set up the Tar Heels first goal early in the opening half, made it 3-1 in the 64th minute when she put home a rebound of a shot by Kelly McFarlane. It was her first goal of the season.