In arguably the most exciting match of No. 1 Virginia's 2019 season, the Cavaliers (16-1-3, 6-0-3 ACC) suffered their first loss against No. 3 North Carolina in the ACC Championship Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.. In the teams’ first meeting this season, Virginia sent the game into overtime with a goal by freshman midfielder Diana Ordonez, but the Tar Heels (19-1-1, 9-0-1 ACC) scored in the second period of overtime to win the game 2-1.
Virginia tried a new formation against North Carolina with a 3-5-2 setup. Ordonez played center-mid to start the match while senior Meghan McCool and sophomore Rebecca Jarrett handled the attacking front in the two forward positions.
The Tar Heels found better opportunities in the first half. North Carolina totaled seven shots to the Virginia’s two and forced four corner kicks, one of which allowed the Tar Heels to take an early lead.
North Carolina maintained strong offensive pressure, converting in the 6th minute off a corner kick. Maycee Bell, freshman defender and ACC Freshman of the Year, created the opportunity, finding space for herself in the box and receiving the corner kick with a header into the right side of the net. Junior goalkeeper Laurel Ivory had no chance to make the save, and the Tar Heels took an early 1-0 lead.
The Cavaliers were faced with the challenge of coming from behind, something they have rarely had to do this season. North Carolina, however, refused to let up and continued to control the pace as they broke down Virginia’s defense.
Back-to-back shots from both teams displayed the talents of the two keepers in the 23rd minute. McCool offered a strike from range at sophomore goalkeeper Claudia Dickey, but she was able to reel the ball in to make the stop. Sophomore midfielder Rachel Jones responded immediately as Virginia tried to catch up on the defensive end, challenging a shot at the diving Ivory. Both goalkeepers made impressive saves to hold the score at 1-0.
Cavalier defenders senior Zoe Morse, senior Phoebe McClernon and freshman Talia Staude were challenged significantly through the first 45, forced to clear the ball repeatedly as North Carolina ventured into the box and looked to extend its lead. Ivory was also put to the test as the Tar Heels rapidly fired shots on goal. Virginia’s defense, however, was able to hold up against North Carolina’s speedy attack and limit the lead to one goal going into halftime.
Coming out of the half, it was clear that the Cavaliers would need to work on transitioning faster and being more efficient in the attacking end.
The Tar Heels generated a multitude of scoring opportunities around the 60-minute mark as Virginia committed foul after foul. Both teams looked significantly more aggressive as they traded fouls, but neither team could use the opportunities created by the fouls to add to the score.
Virginia finally found its footing as Ordonez served up the equalizer in the 68th minute, scoring her 14th goal on the season. Following a free kick by Staude, Dickey left her line in the goal as North Carolina defenders scrambled to protect the open posts. Ordonez received a clearing attempt with a one-footed touch to strike the ball into the open net and tie things up.
The Cavaliers attempted to carry their scoring momentum through the half, looking increasingly aggressive on the ball.
Ivory was forced to make another tough save in the 76th minute as junior forward Alessia Russo attempted a shot. Russo tried to convert again less than a minute later, but Ivory came out of the goal to make the stop.
The game got increasingly more exciting as both sides played with a sense of urgency in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Virginia was physical on both sides of the ball, and North Carolina countered with its own attempts to win possession at all costs.
After a scary collision with a Tar Heel player in the 85th minute, Ivory was taken out of the match and replaced by sophomore goalkeeper Michaela Moran. With the loss of its star keeper, Virginia faced three consecutive corner kicks that threatened to give North Carolina the lead. Moran, however, made a stop in the 90th minute to preserve the tie and send the match into overtime.
Overtime proved just as dramatic as each team tried to score the golden goal in sudden-death play. Virginia came close in the 94th minute as Jarrett hit the right goal post in an attempt.
In the 102nd minute, junior midfielder Emily Fox served the ball downfield to Russo, who was making a run into the box as Cavalier defenders tried to match her pace. Russo turned away from Staude and took a quick strike. There wasn’t much Moran could do as Russo’s shot buried into the back of the net to give the Tar Heels the win.
The hard-fought battle was a testament to the talent of both top-3 teams. The first round of the NCAA Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, but matchups, locations and times have not yet been released. After a highly competitive match, it is clear that both Virginia and North Carolina have the ability to make deep runs in this year’s tournament.
Correction: This article previously misstated that the Cavaliers' regular season conference record was 6-1-3. It was actually 6-0-3, and has been updated to reflect that information.