Dunn returns to lead Tar Heels

Crystal Dunn walked off the field of the Alamodome in San Antonio Sunday and rushed to the locker room to check her phone.

She had just won a friendly against Australia with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Across the country, the North Carolina women’s soccer team had just finished playing top-ranked Virginia. Dunn wanted to see if her college team could add a win to its schedule, too.

But she didn’t get cellular service in the underground locker room.

“So, for 10, 20 minutes, I was like ‘Oh my God, I have no idea what happened’ and then, unfortunately, I was able to get it from my dad,” Dunn said.

The Tar Heels lost 2-0 against the Cavaliers without Dunn.

But on Thursday, Dunn, the team’s leading scorer, was back on Fetzer Field for UNC’s game against Clemson — and her return was noticed.

“She definitely is our little sparkplug,” redshirt senior defender Megan Brigman said. “She brings a little fire to us when she comes back. We definitely miss her when she’s not with us.”

Dunn’s return wasn’t just noticed by her teammates, though. Clemson’s defense stuck to the senior midfielder, pairing her with as many as three Tigers at a time.

Coach Anson Dorrance said he expects teams to attack Dunn.

“She’s just this relentless battering ram,” Dorrance said. “I mean you might stop her once, but you won’t stop her that often.”

The Tiger defense couldn’t stop Dunn, and she recorded two assists in North Carolina’s 2-0 win against Clemson. The first was a connection with freshman forward Amber Munerlyn and sophomore forward Summer Green in the seventh minute. The second, a cross to senior forward Kealia Ohai in the 79th minute.

“She’s just that kind of player,” Dorrance said. “She’s going to make an impact in every game.”

And Dunn isn’t just an offensively impactful player. For the national team, she takes on a defensive role.

“I’m playing a different position, so I think that’s a little different,” Dunn said. “On the full team, I play right back and here I play attack mid and the perspective on the game is a lot different but I think I’m getting used to it.”

Dunn said she didn’t have a problem adjusting to her collegiate team, but the senior, who has started in six of thirteen games with the national team , could just be downplaying the difficulty.

“What I’ve really loved about her is she doesn’t have any arrogance about her,” Dorrance said.

“She’d rather be dancing than talking to you, but she’s just a great, great kid.”

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