In a season that's been full of exciting last minute goals and heartbreaking penalty losses, Kansas soccer's season came to a rather cut and dry ending on Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Kansas fell 4-1 to No. 1 seed North Carolina in Cary, North Carolina, marking the second time in the last three years that the Tar Heels have crushed the dreams of a hopeful Jayhawk team.
Just as they did two years ago, the Jayhawks struggled to command any sort of presence in all areas of the pitch. North Carolina's smothering presence quickly extinguished any sort of Jayhawk threat, whose creativity was diminished even further when sophomore midfielder Ceri Holland's season came to a premature close due to an injury during the game.
With Kansas looking to get on the board early before weathering the storm, it was North Carolina who instead struck first blood. The Tar Heels' Brianna Pinto scored in just the 12th minute of the game to immediately put the Jayhawks on the back foot.
The goal was the earliest all season an opponent has scored against the Jayhawks, perhaps serving as an omen for what was to come for the next 78 minutes.
A further two goals on the stroke of halftime all but condemned Kansas to defeat before it headed to the locker room for the halftime break.
"If we could've avoided that and kept it close for longer, maybe it's a different story," Kansas coach Mark Francis said, according to a Kansas Athletics press release. "But at the end of the day, they converted the opportunities they had and we didn't."
The Tar Heels added a fourth in the 66th minute to stretch the lead to 4-0, but an 82nd minute goal from junior forward Katie McClure gave the Jayhawks something to cheer about in the dying embers of the game.
"I was proud of our kids and the way we battled but (UNC is) a very good team," Francis said. "We got beat by a better team, there's no doubt, but I'm disappointed in the result."
Kansas' campaign comes to an end with a record of 12-6-3, and with that four seniors' collegiate careers. Goalkeeper Lauren Breshears, midfielders Kaycie Young and Miriam Melugin and perhaps most importantly forward Grace Hagan all pulled on the Kansas jersey for the last time against the Tar Heels.
Hagan assisted the Jayhawks' only goal on the night, meaning the senior finishes her collegiate career with 67 points (25 goals, 17 assists), which ranks as the sixth-most in program history.
"It's been a tremendous group of kids. It's been a fun group to coach. I think our senior class deserves a lot of credit, they really led the way the last few years and really established the culture that we have on the team," Francis said. "The challenge to the underclassmen is to now to continue what they've started. Just a tremendous group of kids."