STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Erin Matson redirected a Paityn Wirth shot with 1:19 left and the play gave top-seeded North Carolina a 2-1 win over No. 2-seed Northwestern in the NCAA championship game on Sunday, the Tar Heels’ record 10th title.
North Carolina (21-0), which was tied with Old Dominion for the most titles, dominated the game for 58 minutes. Northwestern (20-5), the defending champion, got its first shot on goal off its first corner, a dramatic goal by Bente Beckers just 39 seconds earlier.
But the Tar Heels quickly recovered with Wirth settling a high pass and playing the ball between a defenders legs before sweeping a shot toward goal. That’s where Matson, the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer, redirected the ball between Annabel Skubisz legs.
It was the 28th goal of the season and 10th game-winner for the five-time All-American, who returned for a fifth COVID year after the Tar Heels were denied a fourth-straight NCAA title last year, losing to Northwestern in the opening round of the tournament. She finished her career as it began — an undefeated national champion.
A goal early in the second period, a deflection by Ryleigh Heck off a Sietske Bruning shot out of a corner, appeared to be enough the way the Tar Heels were playing defense. Northwestern, which averaged 18 shots a game, did not get its first shot until the fourth quarter and finished with two.
With Skubisz, who had an outstanding game with seven saves, on the sideline for an extra attacker, the Wildcats finally earned a corner with 2:06 to go. Alia Marshall fired the ball from the endline and Kayla Blas stopped it at the circle for Baekers to sweep it in for her 25th goal of the season. But the celebration was short lived as the Tar Heels raced back to the attack and earned their fourth championship in five seasons.
North Carolina won the 1997 championship in Storrs, beating Old Dominion 3-2 in the final. Matson finishes her career with 137 goals in 100 games, increasing her NCAA Tournament record for goals to 23.