South Carolina women's soccer fell just short of their first trip to the College Cup in a 1-0 loss to UNC in an Elite Eight matchup.
“I just want to thank this team for what they have done all season,” head coach Shelley Smith said in her opening statement.
UNC got on the board first in the 21st minute when freshman forward Madison Schultz found the bottom right corner of the net. Schultz has had five goals this season, all game-winners coming in past eight matches. Her first score came in the final game of the regular-season, and the rest occurred during the postseason.
UNC's lead marked the first time the Gamecocks had trailed during this NCAA tournament.
The scoreboard didn’t show much for the Gamecocks after the first 45 minutes, but they did manage to outshoot the Tar Heels 9-8 overall and 6-5 on goal.
South Carolina had plenty of opportunities during the match. Late in the first half, senior defender Kaleigh Kurtz just missed a goal as her shot bounced off the crossbar. Then in the 54th minute, senior forward Sophie Groff was awarded a penalty kick, but her shot was blocked by North Carolina keeper Lindsey Harris.
Junior forward Savannah McCaskill said, "We had our chances and at the end of the day we have to be proud of what we did [tonight] and what we did this season”
South Carolina ended up maintaining their advantage in total shots with a 16-14 lead, but Harris made eight saves in as many opportunities for North Carolina.
The Gamecocks had an NCAA tournament run to remember this year. Being a No. 1 seed, they hosted the first four rounds of the tournament. They posted shutouts against Alabama State, Colorado and Brigham Young, and in tournament play they outscored opponents 9-1. Freshman keeper Mika Krzeczowski played in seven of the eight halves during the tournament and allowed just one goal during that time. She made six saves against the Tar Heels.
This was just South Carolina’s second loss of the season. Their first came during the SEC tournament where they lost to Florida 1-0.
“We’ve got nine seniors that are very upset and emotional,” Smith said. “We’re all sad at this moment, it hurts. But like we talked about at the end of the game, we can’t be more proud of what this team has done all year."
South Carolina finishes their historic season 21-2-1. The Tar Heels will now move on to play in the Final Four.