JJ Tompkins did her best to keep her Colorado soccer career alive as long as possible.
However, against a team like perennial national power North Carolina, which brings wave after wave of constant pressure throughout an entire 90-minute match, sometimes there is only so much even the best of goalies can do.
Tompkins and the Buffaloes put up a commendable fight Friday on the road against the top-seeded Tar Heels, but a lone tally early in the second half was enough for North Carolina to post a 1-0 victory and eliminate the Buffs in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was the third time since 2014 the Buffs have been eliminated in the second round at North Carolina, which advances to host Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Sunday.
“Going into this game, we knew North Carolina’s quality the last couple times we were here they were down a little bit and had some injuries, but this year they were up a lot and healthy,” CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. “For us to battle like we did today against this team in front of almost 5,000 people was just an unbelievable effort.”
That battle might have turned into a rout for the host Tar Heels if not for the work of Tompkins, whose nine saves included several spectacular stops in the first half. In one sequence midway through the first half, Tompkins turned away a header chance from North Carolina’s Bridgette Andrzejewski with a difficult one-handed diving tip. And off the ensuing corner kick, Tompkins was able to smother a point-blank line drive from the penalty-kick spot by the Tar Heels’ Brianna Pinto.
Pinto, though, eventually helped North Carolina finally solve Tompkins in the 48th minute, dropping a pass to Alessia Russo whose line-drive shot curled just beyond Tompkins’ fingertips inside the near post.
Tompkins ends her career as the all-time leader among CU goalie in wins (49) and total saves (369) while finishing as the co-leader in solo shutouts (25). It probably was hollow solace after the loss, but Tompkins’ stellar effort also gave her the Buffs’ all-time record for career save percentage. Tompkins entered Friday’s match with a mark of .839 that was mere fractions ahead of Sloan Cox’s mark of .838, but Tompkins’ nine saves in 10 shots against the Tar Heels nudged her final save percentage to .841.
It also was the final match for senior midfielder Taylor Kornieck, who left an indelible impression on the CU record book as well as the Buffs’ all-time leader in points (102) and co-leader in assists (24). Kornieck’s 39 goals ranks second all-time behind Nikki Marshall’s 42.
“They left it all on the pitch and that’s all you can ask for,” Sanchez said. “It was maybe one of the best goalkeeping performances I’ve ever seen. It probably is. The first save in the first half really set the tone. Even when they were offside she made a save. Unbelievable performance. A world-class performance. Hopefully there were professional coaches that watched a performance like that, because you’re not going to see a better performance in a women’s college soccer game.
“(Kornieck) and JJ, they’re two of the best players in the country. Taylor won every ball battle, played 90 minutes, and even at the end we had a last chance to maybe get back into it. I’m super proud of her as well.”
North Carolina 1, Colorado 0
NCAA Tournament second round
Colorado (12-8-2) 0 0 — 0
North Carolina (21-1-1) 0 1 — 1
Goals — North Carolina: Russo (Pinto, Andrzejewski), 48th minute.
Goalies (Min-goals against-saves) — Colorado: Tompkins (90-1-9); North Carolina: Dickey (90-0-1).