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UNC Soccer: Three Tar Heels help North Carolina Courage to NWSL title

Cue the Dean Smith quote.

2019 NWSL Championship Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A couple weeks ago, we talked about how the spirit of UNC women’s soccer was alive and well in the professional ranks, with several Tar Heels competing in the NWSL playoffs. Well, those playoffs have now concluded, and the Carolina alumns more than showed their worth in the championship game.

The North Carolina Courage, where the majority of the UNC alumni taking part in the playoffs played, took home a second-straight NWSL championship with a 4-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.

Three Tar Heels, Crystal Dunn, Jessica McDonald, and Heather O’Reilly, were in the Courage’s starting lineup, and all three played a role in the win.

The Courage already had a 1-0 lead when the first Heel struck. In the 26th minute, McDonald got on the end of a Lynn Williams cross and headed it home to double North Carolina’s lead.

Shortly before halftime, Dunn sealed the win and the championship for all intents and purposes with a goal of here own. She followed her own shot by putting in the rebound for the Courage’s third goal. At that point, it would have taken a complete collapse for North Carolina not to come away with the title.

That didn’t come, thanks in part to the play of the third Tar Heel. O’Reilly got the start at right back as part of a defense that kept a Chicago team that score the second most goals in the league off the scoreboard. In particular, O’Reilly helped hold the Red Stars’ Yuki Nagasato, who recorded eight goals and eight assists this season, in check.

It was an impressive showing for O’Reilly in her final ever game. With the championship assured, she was substituted late on to give the crowd a chance to cheer off the UNC and USWNT legend.

O’Reilly is now headed back to Chapel Hill to be an assistant coach for the Tar Heels, and it looks like she won’t get long to bask in the win.

As for Chicago, their lone Tar Heel did get in the game, albeit not for long. In the 84th minute with her team already down 4-0, Brooke Elby came on for the Red Stars, but didn’t really get a chance to make much of an impact in her six minutes.

This is yet another feather in the cap of Anson Dorrance, and comes a couple months after five Tar Heels being a part of the US World Cup-winning team. As the Dean Smith quote goes, UNC is indeed a women’s soccer school.