It seemed like a bit of a mismatch on paper, in favor of North Carolina, the most storied program in women’s college soccer history.
But on the pitch Wednesday afternoon in Cary, N.C., it was Washington who was the better team for much of the game — particularly in the first half.
The Tar Heels, uncharacteristically stymied on offense for most of the game, are advancing despite that, scoring on a corner kick in the 68th minute for a 1-0 win in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina (17-1) has won 21 of 38 NCAA tournaments, all under coach Anson Dorrance, in his 42nd year as the team’s head coach. The Tar Heels were the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament this year and had outscored their opponents 44-6.
But it became clear early that unseeded Washington (10-4-4), which had shut out its previous five opponents, was not intimidated. Most of the first half was played on North Carolina’s side of the field. The Huskies had seven first-half shots — including four on goal — and the Tar Heels had none.
North Carolina, which had lost in the championship game of the past two NCAA tournaments, got its first shot in the 55th minute, and it seemed destined to go in. But UW goalkeeper Olivia Sekany got a hand on the close-range shot from Rachel Jones, deflecting it off the top of the goal.
North Carolina continued its pressure, but the Husky defense stood up to the test until the Tar Heels earned a corner kick in the 68th minute. Tori Hansen redirected Hallie Klanke’s kick into the right corner of the net.
It was the first goal Sekany had allowed in 647 minutes.
Washington retook control and got a few good chances in the final 20 minutes — and a great one with eight minutes left — but it couldn’t covert. and soon its season was over.
The Huskies outshot North Carolina 13-7 and led 6-2 in shots on goal. But the Tar Heels won the only stat that really mattered.
Still, it was a successful season for UW under first-year coach Nicole Van Dyke, having reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. The Huskies have reached the final eight twice, the last time in 2010.