The odds were always going to be against the UCLA women's soccer team Friday, and in the end they were just too much to overcome.
The Bruins, playing 18-time national champion North Carolina in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, held the Tar Heels scoreless for 83 minutes at Cary, N.C, then gave up two goals in the final seven minutes and lost, 2-0.
In Sunday's final, North Carolina (26-1) will play unbeaten Notre Dame (25-0-1), which defeated Florida State, 2-1, in Friday's other semifinal. The Irish got first-half goals on a shot by freshman Courtney Rosen and a header by senior Jill Krivacek, then hung on in the second half after India Trotter had scored for the Seminoles.
The men's semifinals also were scheduled for Friday, but UCLA's match against Virginia and UC Santa Barbara's game against Wake Forest were postponed until today because of heavy snow and frigid temperatures in St. Louis. The Bruins men's game will kick off at 9 a.m. PST and will be shown live on ESPN2.
In the women's match, the weather was much better in Cary, but the Bruins faced the daunting prospect of playing a North Carolina team with a 90-7 record in NCAA tournament games over the past quarter-century.
They were also was up against Tar Heels Coach Anson Dorrance, who was seeking his 800th coaching victory, and were playing a team that proved much faster and more aggressive.
From the outset, the Bruins were under pressure and only a stubborn defense, anchored by Erin Hardy, and some fine goalkeeping by Valerie Henderson kept North Carolina at bay.
In the second half, UCLA created more chances of its own, with midfielder Christina DiMartino especially dangerous. North Carolina swapped goalkeepers at the half, however, and Ashlyn Harris twice made key saves on Bruins forward Danesha Adams.
The Bruins also fell victim to North Carolina's offside trap, and UCLA's attacking moves broke down on 11 occasions when the Bruins was called for offside infractions. The goals came at the end, just as it seemed UCLA might take the game to sudden-death overtime.
Freshman Casey Nogueira hit a tremendous 22-yard shot to break the deadlock in the 84th minute, with the ball swerving in the air and going into the net off the fingertips of diving goalkeeper Henderson.
"Fortunately for us today, Casey had a lot of playing time and then just had the game of her young collegiate life," Dorrance said.
Two minutes later, senior forward Heather O'Reilly scored the second, firing a shot from 10 yards that gave Henderson no chance. Both goals came off astute diagonal passes by Yael Averbuch. The Bruins ended their season at 21-4. They also were beaten by North Carolina in the 2000 final and the 2003 semifinals.
Jones reported from Los Angeles.