Second-half performance propels Tar Heels

The women's soccer team scored four second-half goals in a pair of wins.

Barring overtime, weather delays or natural disasters, collegiate soccer games consist of 90 minutes of game time.

Yet in two games of the Carolina Nike Classic, the No. 1 North Carolina women’s soccer team preferred to use only the second 45 minutes to do most of its damage.

The Tar Heels defeated New Mexico 2-1 Friday before shutting out Kennesaw State 3-0 on Sunday.

After 45 minutes of action on Friday UNC trailed New Mexico 1-0, and if not for a last second scramble in the first half against Kennesaw State that led to a goal from sophomore Paige Nielsen, the Tar Heels would’ve been scoreless at the half as well.

Coach Anson Dorrance said the first half performances weren’t up to his expectations.

“I just thought in the first half we were very lackluster, we were basically playing the game too slowly,” he said. “In the second half everything was jacked up, speed of play was better, decision making was better. So I’m really pleased we turned it around and had a better second half.”

The Tar Heels have consistently performed well in the second half this season. UNC has outscored opponents 8-0 in the second half of the season’s first four games, including four such goals this weekend.

Senior Kealia Ohai scored her third goal of the season Sunday against Kennesaw State, a game in which UNC played without leading scorer senior Crystal Dunn, who was inactive in preparation to play with the U.S. Women’s National Team this week. Ohai said it’s good that the team has had great second halves, but they can’t count on that all season.

Nielsen, who was responsible for UNC’s lone first-half goal this weekend, said her goal against Kennesaw State really turned things around in a game where her team had been playing poorly.

“Honestly we weren’t playing that well,” she said. “We needed something like that to wake us up a little bit.”

And it did wake them up. The goal led to two second-half goals, and a 3-0 lead that allowed Dorrance to clear his bench with a little more than 14 minutes left in the game.

The habit of having big second halves is not unique to this weekend, nor is it unique to this year’s team. Last season UNC had a similar affinity for second-half scoring. The Tar Heels scored 37 goals in the second half last season, compared to only 16 first half goals. And that team brought home a title.

Dorrance and team members alike have said they need to come out stronger in the first half. And with Dorrance already confident in his team and their potential, when they begin to do that consistently, perhaps he said it best himself:

“We’re a team that is to be reckoned with.”

sports@dailytarheel.com

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