North Carolina could have used Fox, an All-ACC selection, on defense in the minutes preceding the break, when the Seminoles throttled momentum in their favor with two straight goals, five minutes and 17 seconds apart. Her veteran presence on the back line might have even balanced out the shots, which gave Florida State an 8-3 advantage.
Down two goals for the first time in over two years, the program needed a goal scorer like Russo, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, who could help the team catch back up. With a sense of urgency and increasing pressure, the Tar Heels took five more shots than the Seminoles the rest of the game.
And they did catch back up. Redshirt senior Alex Kimball, who had been filling the shoes and some of the offensive void with Russo out, made the most of her opportunity, scoring the Tar Heels’ first goal of the day in the 63rd minute. With the game much closer, she sparked hope in a comeback.
“Alessia is one of the best players I’ve ever trained with,” Kimball said. “She’s just a world class person and player. It’s hard filling her role, but I’m trying to help my team in the best ways that I can. I just do as much as I can with what I can do.”
The Tar Heels tied the game on a header by Ru Mucherera, her first score of the season, in the 72nd minute. For the next 12 minutes, they couldn’t muster a shot — something they’ve relied upon Russo for this season.
When Florida State made a run in the 84th minute, North Carolina couldn’t delay the inevitable. A goal from Kristina Lynch put the 3-2 nail in the coffin. Without two key pieces in Russo and Fox, the team was weakened and prevented from capturing its 22nd ACC Tournament Championship
“We’re obviously disappointed, but not disappointed with our effort,” Dorrance said. “I certainly had faith in the character of my kids. I felt that if we did go behind, we would try to fight back. We’ve fought back from deficits before. I was certainly happy with that demonstration in character.”