The Tar Heels had to knock off not one, but two unbeaten teams, and they fell behind after only 16 seconds in the final. But they recovered to beat Notre Dame, 2-1, in the Women's College Cup final and capture their 19th NCAA Division I women's title and 100th win in NCAA Tournament history -- against only eight losses.
The hero was Casey Nogueira with two of the most phenomenal goals UNC coach Anson Dorrance says he has ever seen.
UNC sent UCLA heading home from the College Cup without a national title for the sixth straight year with a 1-0 win in the semifinals on a penalty kick by senior Yael Averbuch.
In the final, the Heels fell behind after only 16 seconds on a Kerri Hanks goal set up up a nifty lob by Courtney Rosen but recovered to end Notre Dame's perfect season on a pair of second-half goals by Nogueira, daughter of former indoor goalkeeping great Victor Nogueira.
Nogueira evened things up when she scored on a free kick from the top of the box after Jess McDonald was taken down for a free kick in the 52nd minute.
Nogueira, who had a goal and an assist for UNC in its 2-1 win over Notre Dame in the 2006 final, broke the deadlock when she broke down the left side and struck a ball with her left foot that sailed over the head of Notre Dame keeper Kelsey Lysander.
"The two goals she struck today were world-class finishes," said Dorrance.
With the two goals, Nogueira won the national scoring title for points (58) and goals (25).
The victory was revenge for last year's 3-2 loss to Notre Dame in Chapel Hill in the third round of last year's NCAA Tournament. The Irish had handed Carolina its only loss of the 2008 season in September and would have become only the second team to beat UNC three times in a row if they had won the final.
Dec. 5 in Cary, N.C.
Notre Dame 1 Stanford 0. Goal: Barg (Henderson) 15.
Notre Dame -- Lysander, Schuveiller, Dew, Weber, Scheidler, Rosen, Augustin, Barg, Hanks, Henderson, Weissenhofer. Subs: Knaack, Ford, Bock, Inatorno.
Stanford -- Maker, Levin, Riley, Falk, Abegg, Jenkins, Noyola, McCann, Press, Taylor, O'Hara. Subs: Stannard.
Referee: Rachel Woo.
Shots: Stanford 20, Notre Dame 12.
Corner Kicks: Stanford 6, Notre Dame 3.
Dec. 5 in Cary, N.C.
North Carolina 1 UCLA 0. Goal: Averbuch (pen.) 41.
North Carolina -- Rodenbough, Engen, Givan, Eveland, Averbuch, Long, Hawkins, Long, Heath, Jones, McDonald, Nogueira. Subs: Bartok, Mathias, Smith, Harris, Wood, Briggs, Moraca, Pfankuch.
UCLA -- Thompson, Barnes, Wilmoth, Hardy, Cook, DiMartino, Zerboni, Lang, Wright, Cheney, Larsen. Subs: Williams, Mathis, Calvert, Zadro, Wall, Sharpe.
Referee: Misail Tsapos.
Shots: North Carolina 12, UCLA 8.
Corner Kicks: North Carolina 4, UCLA 2.
Dec. 7 in Cary, N.C.
North Carolina 2 Notre Dame 1. Goals: Nogueira 52, Nogueira 88; Hanks (Rosen) 1.
North Carolina -- Harris, Engen, Givan, Eveland, Averbuch, Long, Hawkins, Long, Heath, Jones, McDonald, Nogueira. Subs: Rodenbough, Bartok, Mathias, Wood, Briggs, Moraca, Pfankuch.
Notre Dame -- Lysander, Schuveiller, Dew, Weber, Scheidler, Rosen, Augustin, Barg, Hanks, Henderson, Bock. Subs: Knaack, Ford, Weissenhofer, Inatorno.
Referee: George Vergara.
Shots: North Carolina 18, Notre Dame 7
Corner Kicks: North Carolina 6, Notre Dame 3.