In the four-year existence of the George Mason women's soccer team, a national title never has been far away, and now it belongs to the Patriots. They won the NCAA championship on their home field yesterday, beating four-time defending champion North Carolina, 2-0, before 4,500.
"Next to the birth of my children, this is the highest I've ever been," said George Mason Coach Hank Leung, who led the team to the NCAA tournament all four years.
Pam Baughman, the tournament MVP, scored unassisted at 29:04 of the first half and Lisa Gmitter converted a pass from Baughman late in the game.
In their four years as national champions, the Tar Heels compiled a 99-4-2 record. But it was fitting that George Mason ended the run. In 1983, UNC beat Mason, 4-0, in the NCAA final. But in the 1984 and 1985 regular seasons, the Patriots tied North Carolina.
"We started our season with North Carolina and we ended our season with North Carolina and a national championship," said Patriots defender Betsy Drambour.
"We talked about it before the game," Leung said. "We talked about how we had never beaten Massachusetts and we beat them yesterday (Saturday's semifinal). We talked . . . North Carolina. We knew it was long overdue."
Drambour, the sweeper, was responsible for checking North Carolina's big scorers, April Heinrichs, Jo Boobas and Carrie Serwetnyk. Coming into the tournament, the three had totaled 52 goals in 19 games. They managed only two shots on goal yesterday.
Leung said of Drambour, "She is the heart and soul of this team. And she should be all-America."
The Patriots scored when their two all-Americas teamed up midway through the first half.
Gmitter, who led the team with 13 goals this season, controlled the ball along the right side line off a throw-in. She shielded the ball from Senga Allan, the Tar Heels' most adept defender, drove into the corner and sent a cross with her right foot. Stacey Enos cleared the cross with a header and centered the ball to Baughman at the edge of the penalty box.
"I actually mistrapped it," Baughman said. "Somehow I got a chip shot off and it curved away from the keeper." The goal landed in the lower left corner of the net, beyond the reach of Kathy O'Dell.
With 21:05 left, the Tar Heels appeared to tie the score. The goal was disallowed. "I believe the call was obstructing the keeper. But in this type of game, with the volume of the crowd, it's not unusual to miss the explanation," said North Carolina Coach Anson Dorrance.
George Mason scored again at 85:56. "We got them on a counter," said Leung. Baughman sent a pass to Gmitter, who was standing at the top of the penalty box.
"I faked inside and let the ball go by me," said Gmitter. North Carolina's Dori Kovanen went with the fake. When Gmitter caught up with the ball, she had half a step on the defender and her curving kick from 15 feet went off O'Dell's hands and in, inside the base of the far post.
"They started this program from nothing four years ago," Leung said. "It's only fitting the seniors walk out with rings."