CARY, N.C. — Georgetown’s Arielle Schechtman hobbled across the field on crutches, her right knee wrapped in ice and her spirit broken by a 1-0 defeat to North Carolina in sudden-death overtime of the first College Cup women’s semifinal Friday.
Schechtman consoled her goalkeeping understudy, junior Lauren Gallagher, who had performed with valor after entering in an emergency role late in regulation.
The two goalkeepers were tremendous, but as the wonderfully entertaining match steamed toward a penalty kick tiebreaker, the Tar Heels' Julia Ashley cracked the previously unbeaten Hoyas' resistance with a transition goal in the 108th minute before a sellout of 10,439 at WakeMed Soccer Park.
When Schechtman approached, Gallagher said she told the senior, “Thank you.”
“Obviously,” Gallagher said, “I have been behind her [on the depth chart]. Honestly, she is one of the greatest friends I have made along the way, which can be unusual as goalkeepers competing against each other. She has been a really great mentor.”
Schechtman, a first-team all-American, had made several sterling saves before getting injured in the 83rd minute.
Gallagher, who had started twice this season, stopped a penalty kick two minutes after entering and made breathtaking stops on consecutive threats in the 102nd minute.
But in the dying moments, with the Hoyas (21-1-3) struggling to keep up with waves of attacks by the Tar Heels (21-3-2), North Carolina executed a perfect counterattack, culminating with Rachael Dorwart supplying Ashley for a 13-yard finish.
The Hoyas had committed players forward on a rare opportunity at the other end. “They cleared it,” Georgetown Coach Dave Nolan said, “and all of a sudden they were going the other way.”
The goal ended the finest season in the program’s 25-year history and marked the second time in three years the Hoyas had fallen one step short of the championship game. They did not concede multiple goals in a game all year and trailed just five times.
North Carolina, the most decorated program in women’s soccer history with 21 NCAA trophies, will face Florida State in Sunday’s final. Boosted by first-half goals from Gabbe Carle and Malia Berkely, the Seminoles (19-4-3) defeated Stanford, 2-0, to end the Cardinal’s 45-game unbeaten streak.
As for the Hoyas, “It’s been an incredible season,” leading scorer Caitlin Farrell said. “I couldn’t love my teammates any more, as hard as it is to go out this way. It was a great season and no one can take that away.”
An open and entertaining first half occupied both goalkeepers and threatened to crack the deadlock. The Tar Heels tested Schechtman with dangerous service into the box and solid bids from medium distance. The Hoyas infiltrated North Carolina’s first layer of resistance but were thwarted in and around the penalty area.
The Tar Heels took charge in the second half and never let up. “As the game wore on,” UNC Coach Anson Dorrance said, “we got better and better.”
Schechtman controlled the box and made several saves. But late in regulation, she landed awkwardly while trying to prevent a deflected shot from crossing the line and becoming a corner kick.
Nolan said later it was too early to determine the severity.
Gallagher was put to the test.
“I was hoping Arielle would be okay,” she said. “Coming into the 80th minute of any game can be tough; in an atmosphere like this, it makes it a lot more difficult. I knew I had my team at my back.”
Nolan marveled at his backup.
“I don’t think people can really understand the competitive cauldron that is out there when Lauren had to step in,” he said. “It’s tough. I’ve got to give her all the credit in the world for not getting flustered. After the penalty save, she really bloomed. She seemed to get taller; I think she was 6 feet by the end of it.”
But after she punched away Taylor Otto’s penalty kick in the 85th minute and stopped two shots in the run of play, the Tar Heels broke through.
“They showed a bit of poise in the right moment,” Nolan said of the relentless Tar Heels, “right at the end to get the goal.”
College Cup notes: Schechtman and Farrell were named first-team all-Americans by the United Soccer Coaches, and teammate Meghan Nally (South Lake) made the third team. Penn State’s Kaleigh Riehl (South County) was a first-team selection. Virginia’s Phoebe McClernon is on the third team.