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Provo • No doubt, the BYU women's soccer team deserved its high ranking and No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Standing in its way between a first-ever trip to the Final Four was second-seeded North Carolina with its 21 national championships and an alumnae list that includes Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.
BYU could not escape the UNC mystique Friday night. More than that, though, the Cougars could not escape the deep, fast and talented Tar Heels, as they lost 2-1 in double overtime.
A goal by Crystal Dunn with four minutes remaining in the second 10-minute sudden-death overtime left a spent BYU team limp on South Field in front of 4,291 spectators wondering what might have been.
It was Dunn's second goal of the game.
"[Kealia Ohai] played a great through ball and I just took a touch," said Dunn, a midfielder whose hustle saved UNC earlier in overtime when she headed Rachel Manning's certain game-winning header off the goal line.
"I tried to hit it low and on frame," Dunn continued.
The ball also deflected off of BYU defender Lindsi Cutshall.
"It would have been an easy save to make," BYU keeper Erica Owens said.
Certainly, Owens played the game of her life, making eight saves, most taking a full-out stretch.
"Tonight was definitely more pressure offensively because of the speed of North Carolina," Owens said.
BYU (20-2-2) was eventually able to match the Tar Heels' speed and athleticism. The Cougars could not match UNC's depth.
North Carolina (13-5-3) coach Anson Dorrance used eight substitutes, with all but one registering double-digit minutes.
"No question, this is a very deep team," he said. "We had a little bit more depth and some extraordinary personalities. We rode them to victory."
Following Dunn's goal in third minute, BYU had few chances and was outshot 23-8.
The Cougars tied the game in the 27th minute on a penalty kick by Manning. Yet, UNC played much of the game in BYU's half.
"It was tough to find confidence after giving up a goal early on," BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said. "But I was proud of the way they bounced back. At end of first half, we kind of settled down a little bit.
"We didn't keep the ball as much as we're used to."
BYU's best moment came in the first overtime when a UNC mistake left Cutshall alone on a breakaway. When that broke down, the Cougars' ensuing corner also looked to be a game-winner until Dunn's hustle wiped away that chance.
The game was also a homecoming for Ohai, a former Alta High School star who has gone on to international play, including the victorious U.S. U20 FIFA world champions.
"It was awesome," said Ohai, who came so close to scoring, including banging a shot off the wood work. "It was so fun to play in front of family and friends. It was a lot of pressure because I know most of these [BYU] girls."
UNC 2, BYU 1 (2OT)
R North Carolina's Crystal Dunn scores two goals, including the sudden-death winner with four minutes to play.