CARY, NORTH CAROLINA — A comeback story, a career-defining goal, tears flowing on both sidelines and a euphoric release as the clock struck zero. The 2022 Women's College Cup final was an all-time classic in every sense of the word, as the UCLA Bruins won their first national title since 2013 and coach Margueritte Aozasa became the first rookie coach in NCAA women's soccer to win it all.
Eighty minutes in and with a two-goal lead, the UNC-branded champions' t-shirts were surely being unboxed and rolled to the field. UCLA pulled a goal back to make things interesting, but it seemed too little, too late. As the clock ticked under 30 seconds, Chapel Hill was readying itself for yet another national championship rally.
Then Reilyn Turner turned the drama all the way up. She headed a corner kick into the roof of the net amid a mass of bodies stuffed on the goal line. Overtime followed and both teams continued to attack rather than play for a penalty kick shootout. Minutes before the winner, the Bruins were just inches from third when a header was cleared off the line by desperate UNC defense.
Finally, the moment that will be replayed for years every December when the College Cup comes back around. A shot saved by Emmie Allen and an onrushing Maricarmen Reyes, who pivoted and shot in one motion, beating Allen and sending the traveling UCLA fans into bedlam. Reyes fell to the ground in elation, mobbed by her teammates. When she emerged from the pile, she had lost a few tears but gained a lifelong memory.
It's the first time a team came back from down two goals to win the national championship. It was just the second time the Bruins had even seen a two-score deficit this season. And the third goal was scored by the final kick of Reyes' collegiate career.
For the Tar Heels, the championship drought will continue for an 11th year. After the first-round heartbreak of last season, this year's run to the final was nearly complete. Nearly, but not quite. The national title evaded Anson Dorrance and the Tar Heels yet again, who have now lost their last three College Cup final appearances.
For the near-10,000 fans in attendance at WakeMed Soccer Park, they know it will be hard for any future College Cup to top the drama of the 2022 final. UCLA will fly back to the west coast with their program's second national title, which was won in a way we may never see again.