North Carolina won the NCAA women's soccer championship today for the 15th time in 18 years, beating Notre Dame, 2-0.
Meredith Florance scored in the 56th minute to break a scoreless tie and Beth Shepard scored in the 80th minute for North Carolina, which lost 1-0 to Florida in last year's final.
"The foundation for any success is recruiting," North Carolina Coach Anson Dorrance said. "We bring in extraordinary talent, and these players compete with relentless physical fury. We win with heart and we spend years training that muscle."
Notre Dame (21-4-1), which won the title in 1995, finished second for the third time.
North Carolina (24-2-0) improved to 61-3 in NCAA tournament play and finished the season with an 18-game winning streak. The Tar Heels have allowed 12 goals this season, just two in the second half, and have 19 shutouts, including 14 by freshman goalkeeper Jenni Branam.
The contest drew an NCAA women's soccer final record crowd of 14,410.
The scoring began when freshman Kim Patrick crossed the ball to the top right corner of the penalty box, where Florance kicked it into the left corner of the net past a diving LaKeysia Beene.
"I knew chances would not come often," Florance said. "I had to refocus and remember that the next chance I got, I had to stick it."
Later, Raven McDonald dribbled the ball down the right side, then centered it to Shepard, who tapped it past Beene from 10 yards out.
The Tar Heels had two other scoring opportunities in the first four minutes of the second half. After North Carolina worked the ball into the box, Florance took a centering pass but just missed an open shot. The ball was kept alive, though, and Jena Kluegel took a shot that Beene punched over the net.
Notre Dame's best chance to score in the second half came in the 64th minute, when Jenny Heft got off a shot from the top of the box that Branam was able to stop. Heft also shot wide with just more than five minutes to play.
North Carolina, with a stifling defense and attacking offense, dominated play in a scoreless first half, outshooting the Irish 8-1, but the Notre Dame defense was up to the task, getting a body on most outside shots. Beene had three saves.