Junior Raina Johnson's goal in the 23rd minute and a stellar team defensive effort powered No. 18 South Carolina past No. 6 North Carolina, 1-0, and into the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time in program history on Sunday afternoon at Fetzer Field. After advancing on penalty kicks in the previous two contests, the Gamecocks (14-5-5) took down the Tar Heels (14-4-2) in regulation and collected their third shutout in as many games in the NCAA Tournament.
Just seconds into the match, South Carolina nearly punched in their first goal of the tournament. Sophomore Sophie Groff found Johnson in the box, and the Gamecock tried to power it past Tar Heel keeper Bryane Haeberlin. Haeberlin was in position for the save though.
In the 23rd minute, South Carolina did find the back of the net for the first time of this year's NCAA Tournament and for the first time in 366 minutes of play. Johnson's shot from 20 yards out hit the right post, and Haeberlin appeared to have the shot wrapped up. The ball dribbled past her and in for the 1-0 lead.
The Tar Heels registered their first shot on goal of the match with four minutes to play before the break. Amanda Rooney sent one in from outside the penalty area on the right side and tried to one-bounce the equalizer. The shot did not faze freshman Abbey Crider, who collected her first save of the afternoon.
In the 56th minute, North Carolina's Summer Green went down to the end line, made a turn and tried to hit the far corner, but she couldn't bend her shot in, and the Gamecocks kept their 1-0 advantage.
Needing a score to keep the season alive, North Carolina bumped up the pressure and unleashed five of its six second-half shots off in the final 15 minutes of play.
With just over 11 minutes to go, Greene fired a cross into box that senior Andie Romness deflected out of bounds. On the ensuing corner kick, the serve from Green found Paige Nielsen, but Crider corralled it to save the shutout.
In the final two minutes, South Carolina faced a battery of North Carolina shots. The Gamecock defense deflected the first two, but Joanna Boyles settled a rebound and nearly leveled the match with just 37 seconds to go. Boyles spun a shot in that Crider stopped with her chest to preserve the shutout and advance the Gamecocks.