SYRACUSE, N.Y. — North Carolinas Laura Zimmerman had the perfect stage and the powerhouse performance on Saturday.
But when Syracuse Universitys Michelle Tumolo wrote the final line of the script, both Zimmerman and the Tar Heels got the hook.
Tumolo scored with five seconds left to cap a startling Orange comeback and daze the Tar Heels with a 17-16 win in a NCAA Tournament Division I quarterfinal game at the Carrier Dome.
The No. 4 Orange (18-3) erased a two-goal deficit with three unanswered scores in the final 2 minutes, 24 seconds to earn a match against No. 1 Florida on Friday. Zimmerman, a senior playing in front of her hometown Syracuse fans, tossed UNC on her talented back in an effort to change that result with a career-best six goals.
"Id say Im a little bit in shock, Zimmerman said. "It will take awhile to settle in. Im not satisfied today, because the championship was up for grabs. But I had four great years. It (her effort) was nice. It would have been nicer to have the win.
UNCs Kara Cannizzaro, another Syracuse-area native, tied a career best with five scores. Tumolo found the back of the net four times for the Orange.
Her winner was a flashy flourish. She isolated UNCs Brittney Coppa on the right side, gave her a twisting juke that opened a little space and then burrowed a shot from a tough angle that eluded Tar Heels netminder Lauren Maksym.
"It was like a dream. I didnt even know what shot I tried, Tumolo said. "It was a feeling of pure bliss.
The Tar Heels finished the season 15-4 and will miss the final four for the first time in four seasons.
"It was a great game. We did a lot of great things, said North Carolina coach Jenny Levy. "Maybe some of the finer details came back to haunt us at the end.
Levy was referring to some late turnovers and lost ground balls, but North Carolina started the second half building up what should have been a larger margin for error. The Orange scored the first two goals after the break to take a 9-7 edge, but the Tar Heels answered with a 7-2 run that included four goals from Cannizzaro.
"I think each team had a lot of heart, Cannizzaro said. "We didnt position ourselves in the game earlier to have a bigger lead. You cant let it come down to the last three minutes and blame the loss on those mistakes.
Zimmerman scored from the right side with 3:04 left to nudge her team ahead 16-14. But Tumolo beat Maksym with 2:24 remaining to cut SUs deficit to one, and with 39 seconds left she found teammate Kailah Kempney on the left side of the Tar Heels net. Kempney had plenty of time to line up the tying goal.
Tumolo rang the final bell of the game 34 seconds later, making an abrupt change in the Tar Heels plans for next weekend.
"You grow up going to games here, Cannizzaro said of her spoiled return. "Just getting the chance to play where so many legends have played, thats amazing. But thats not part of the game.