CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina cleared the third-round hurdle of the NCAA women’s soccer championship that has tripped them up for the past two years – but barely.
The second-seeded Tar Heels advanced past third-seeded Baylor on penalty kicks, 4-2, after playing to a 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime at Fetzer Field.
UNC (12-5-3) reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2009, when it won its 20th NCAA title, and will play at No. 1 seed Brigham Young on Friday.
The Tar Heels trailed for much of the afternoon until Crystal Dunn’s unassisted strike with just over eight minutes left in regulation leveled the match.
Baylor (19-1-5) had gone up 1-0 with 35 seconds left in the first half on Lisa Sliwinski’s 10th goal of the season after a defensive mistake. UNC defender Caitlin Ball tried to play a ball back to goalkeeper Adelaide Gay but knocked it over the end line.
Bri Campos took the ensuing corner, and after the Tar Heels failed to clear it away, Campos flicked it back toward the left post, where Sliwinski got a foot on it in a crowd.
The goal capped a first half for the Tar Heels that coach Anson Dorrance termed “incredibly poor.” But the Tar Heels, who recorded only one first-half shot, picked up the pace in the final 15 minutes.
In the 82nd minute, Dunn, a junior, controlled a ball on the right flank, faked her defender to the ground and got free for a left-footed blast from 20 yards that found the left corner of the net.
“Baylor was definitely a man-marking team,” said Dunn, who has scored a goal in each of UNC’s three NCAA tournament games after moving from central defender to an attacking position. “What hurt them the most was they didn’t have anyone behind them.”
UNC dominated the overtimes, outshooting Baylor 8-1, but couldn’t produce the game-winner. Dorrance said he felt confident entering the penalty kicks, however, when he subbed in freshman goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin for the senior Gay.
“I’ve never done that before,” Heaberlin, the winning goalkeeper on the U.S. Under-20 World Cup team in September, said of her relief effort.
North Carolina’s Maria Lubrano, Alyssa Rich, Kelly McFarlane and Bowen were perfect on their kicks, but after Michelle Hagen and Larissa Campos made the first two for Baylor, Bri Campos and Karlee Summey missed wide to end it.
Heaberlin was extremely active before each kick, moving side to side quickly in an attempt to distract the kicker.
“It gets in their heads, and I think it worked today,” Heaberlin said.