Reilyn Turner scored with 16 seconds left to force overtime, and then Maricarmen Reyes scored the winner to hand the Bruins the national championship.
The Bruins were on the brink of elimination, on pace to lose a heartbreaker to the Tar Heels and go home empty handed.
Reilyn Turner had other plans.
With 16 seconds left in regulation, the junior forward sprinted towards the back post and headed in the equalizer off a corner kick from freshman midfielder Ally Lemos. While their opponent pled to the referee for a foul on goalkeeper Emmie Allen, Turner and her teammates erupted into celebration, knowing their season would stay alive at least another 20 minutes.
That set the table for graduate midfielder Maricarmen Reyes, who powered home a rebound for the winner in extra time to secure the program’s second-ever NCAA title.
No. 1 seed UCLA women’s soccer (21-2-1, 9-2 Pac-12) trailed No. 2 seed North Carolina (20-4-1, 8-2 ACC) 2-0 in the 79th minute of the College Cup final on Monday, a deficit that no team before them had overcome with the national championship on the line. The Bruins ultimately clawed their way back into it to become the first to do so, a fitting performance for a team led by the first first-year coach ever to lead her team to a title in Margueritte Aozasa.
The former Stanford assistant coach stayed calm, cool and collected when North Carolina scored a pair of goals in the second half, as crushing as they were to UCLA’s chances of victory.
The first came in the 59th minute, when forward Emily Moxley barely got off a cross from the right wing and found Patterson in the box for the goal. The Tar Heels created a nearly identical chance in the 75th minute, although this time it was midfielder Emily Colton who sent in the cross. The header by Patterson was not quite as powerful on her second try, but she sent it to the far post and caught graduate goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy flatfooted to score regardless.
Those were the only times Brzykcy faltered all night, though, as the sixth-year veteran recorded six saves to keep the Bruins in it.
Sophomore Lexi Wright made it 2-1 in the 80th minute, volleying in a rebound off a strike from senior forward Sunshine Fontes. Less than 10 minutes later, Turner scored her instantly-iconic goal to tie things up.
Momentum swung strongly in UCLA’s favor in extra time, with North Carolina hardly holding possession or building any serious chances for the rest of the match.
Meanwhile, the Bruins had the ball in the attacking third for virtually all of overtime, and they very nearly ended things when Turner headed another one towards the goal off a corner kick in the 105th. VAR confirmed that the ball did not fully cross the line, though, and UCLA had to cobble together another chance.
That’s exactly what they did, with graduate forward Ally Cook gathering the ball deep in the box and somehow getting off a spinning shot through traffic in the 107th. Allen turned it away, but Reyes cleaned it up for the biggest winner of her career.
The crowd leaned heavily towards the Tar Heels – given that the game was taking place just 23 miles away from their campus in Cary, North Carolina – but the Bruins’ contingent got loud as their team hoisted the national championship trophy for the first time since 2013.
UCLA now has 120 NCAA titles overall, with this one marking their first since men’s water polo won it all at the end of the delayed 2020 season. The Bruins had at least one national championship in 18 out of 19 academic years before falling short across the board in 2021-2022.
The school has officially gotten back to its title-winning ways, courtesy of Turner, Reyes, Wright, Brzykcy, Aozasa and the rest of the team that will return home to Westwood with some brand-new hardware.