Under this slackening pressure, the Blue Devils found an opportunity and exploited it.
In the 44th minute, Duke sophomore midfielder Ashton Miller bypassed the UNC back line with a long pass to sophomore forward Imani Dorsey, who sent the ball into the top of the net to award the Blue Devils with the only goal of the game.
“(Dorsey) just railed it — hit it hard above me and I couldn’t save it,” Heaberlin said.
Before the goal, North Carolina gave up the ball in Duke’s half and was unable to recover, allowing the Blue Devils to take a lead it held for the rest of the game.
“They were all over us, played with a really wonderful intensity and basically deserved to be in a position to be up a goal,” Dorrance said.
The Tar Heels have now dropped three matches in a row for only the second time in the program’s 37-year history, and UNC has been unable to establish dominant play in the first half of all three games. The first-half goal — and the loss — were direct consequences of this trend.
But Dorrance said in spite of their losses, the Tar Heels have consistently played better than their competitor in the second half. It has only been the first half where North Carolina has struggled to challenge their opponents.
Like previous games, the Tar Heels put more pressure on Duke in the second half, out-shooting the Blue Devils 10-6. But they were unable to answer Dorsey’s goal.
“We were obviously the better team in the second half, and we just couldn’t get anything done,” said senior defender Paige Nielsen.
Dorrance noted he was proud of how his team played in the second half, but he said the team has to work on starting the game aggressively.
Lately, the Tar Heels have failed to establish this early intensity. And it has led them to taint their once-undefeated record.
“You can see that we aren’t working as hard as (in) the other games in the first 15 minutes,” Nielsen said.
“When we work hard in the first 15 minutes, we take over the game ... You need to give everything out on the field and we’re just not seeing that in the first half.”