Ohai's game-winner sends UNC to title game

Ohai's game-winner sends UNC to title game
by J.R. Eskilson
December 1, 2012

SAN DIEGO – North Carolina defeated defending champions Stanford 1-0 in double overtime on Friday to advance to the NCAA Championship.

Tar Heel forward Kealia Ohai found the back of the net for the Tar Heels thanks to an assist from fellow national team standout Crystal Dunn midway through the second overtime period.

The Ohai golden goal separated the teams on a night when standout play from both goalkeepers kept the teams on level terms for 105 minutes.

“We are estatic to beat an outstanding Stanford team . . . To win the game on the game’s best chance is an excellent way to win,” North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance said. “It was a tremendous way to win a game.” 

Stanford goalkeeper Emily Oliver finished the game with 10 saves including three on Ohai’s previous attempts.

North Carolina goalkeeper Adelaide Gay had four saves including a diving effort in the first half that prevented Lo’eau LaBonta from finding the back of the net for the opener.

LaBonta intercepted a clearance by Gay and tried to catch the keeper off the line with a quick trigger. Gay was able to recover enough and keep the ball out of the net.

“That keeper [Gay] had one of the saves of her life,” LaBonta said about the shot. “And that was frustrating.”

The teams went into the break level on shots on goal with four a piece.

North Carolina came out on the front foot in the second half with a couple of opportunities to find the opening tally in the first eight minutes. Ohai was the catalyst of the movement, which resulted in a 20-yard shot that Oliver just barely tipped over the crossbar.

Stanford absorbed the increasing pressure from the Tar Heels and did not let North Carolina break through during a lengthy stretch when the ACC powerhouse won the possession battle thanks to Amber Brooks’ play in the midfield.

Stanford’s Sydney Payne looked like she might be the hero of the night late when she snuck in on the right side of the box and ripped a shot to the far post, but it just missed wide and the teams headed to overtime – the second of the night at College Cup.

The girls in baby blue predominantly controlled the first overtime, as Dunn and Brooks continued to assert their authority on the game. Dunn set up Brooks for one of the better looks of the game when she slipped a pass in-between two defenders to the waiting senior. Brooks took one touch to put the ball in front of her and then drilled the shot at goal, but Oliver tipped the ball over the net for her eighth save of the game.

It was just one of Brooks’ many contributions to the game as the center midfielder was up for any challenge during the game in dictating the play through the center of the pitch. 

“Both teams had their battleships,” Dorrance said in reference to Mariah Nogueira and Brooks. “I don’t think it was a dirty game, but this is a contact sport.”

The Tar Heels take on Penn State on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (PT) with the National Championship on the line. 

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