Nogueira's second-half goals seal UNC's 19th soccer championship

CARY, N.C. -- Casey Nogueira starred once again on the biggest stage in NCAA women's soccer.

North Carolina's junior forward provided the heroics in the championship game of the Women's College Cup for the second time in three years, scoring two second-half goals to lead the Tar Heels to a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday.

"It just means so much to me to win it again and win it for the seniors," said Nogueira, who was named the tournament's most outstanding offensive player. "I haven't seen our team work this hard. We wanted it so bad today. Everyone was just working and busting for each other, and we came out on top."

The Tar Heels (25-1-2) overcame the fastest goal in Notre Dame history to win their 19th women's soccer championship in the 27-year history of the tournament and deny the Fighting Irish's bid for their first undefeated season.

Nogueira, who had a goal and an assist in UNC's 2-1 victory over Notre Dame in the 2006 championship game, scored the winner Sunday with 2:06 remaining. She dribbled to the flank just inside the left side of the box and lofted a left-footed shot over the head of Notre Dame goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander and into the right side of the net.

Nogueira's first goal was a right-footed blast on a free kick that tied the score in the 52nd minute.

"She has every conceivable soccer skill, but that doesn't necessarily make a player," North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance said. "Her evolution as a player is to take all these remarkable tools she has and figure out how and when to use them. The two balls that she struck today were world-class finishes."

Kerri Hanks gave Notre Dame (26-1-0) the early lead, finding the back of the net 16 seconds into the game.

The Fighting Irish kicked off and moved the ball into UNC's end, where defender Kristi Eveland's clearance attempt went to Notre Dame's Courtney Rosen. She lofted a left-footed lob over UNC's defense to a sprinting Hanks, who put the ball past goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in the lower-right corner of the net.

"We scored a goal early, and that was good for our team," Hanks said. "We just tried to keep doing it, but obviously we didn't get it done."

Nogueira, who is from nearby Raleigh and played in high school state-championship games on the same field where she starred Sunday, scored the tying goal after teammate Jessica McDonald was fouled by a group of Notre Dame defenders just outside the box.

Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum voiced his displeasure to referee George Vergara after the game when Hanks went down in the box during the final minute and was not awarded a penalty kick.

"That's probably better kept between me and him," Waldrum said. "I think you can watch ESPN replays and see what we're talking about."

The Tar Heels outshot the Fighting Irish 18-7 in improving to 100-7-1 in the NCAA tournament. North Carolina protected its status as the only school to complete a perfect season in NCAA Division I women's soccer, something the Tar Heels have accomplished four times (1991-93, 2003).

North Carolina also avenged its only defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to the Fighting Irish on Sept. 5.

"I'm just incredibly proud of this group," Dorrance said. "It's been one of those dream seasons for us."