Redshirt junior Jessie Scarpa jumped up and headed Boyles’ second cross into the net. The Tar Heel bench cleared, ran to and gathered around the game’s final goal-scorer in celebration of its 2-1 opening day win.
“It’s awesome; I love playing with her,” Scarpa said of Boyles. “I know she’s always going to look over top and try to find me behind the back line. Her set pieces are incredible. Every time she steps on the ball, I expect it go in.”
Scarpa and Boyles, North Carolina’s two most valuable players on Friday, reunited for the first time in Tar Heel blue since 2015. Last season, Scarpa took a redshirt year to play on the U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team. The season before that, right before the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Boyles went down with her first of two ACL tears that effectively began her 21-month period of being tied to the sideline.
“Well, what I love is, this is two ACL tears back-to-back,” Head Coach Anson Dorrance said. “And then for (Boyles) to not just come back, but to come back actually at a better level than before she was hurt — this is her achievement.”
Come kickoff, the two Tar Heels who didn’t compete all of the 2016 season played like they never left.
“I was lucky enough to get on the field in the spring, so I was able to get all those ... injury kind of emotions out of the way,” Boyles said. “So then I could really be fresh for the season and kind of be locked in on the season and have all that emotion in the past.”
And with the program coasting into unfamiliar waters — especially considering the fact that its home games will be played at the WakeMed Soccer Park while construction continues at Fetzer Field — the ship proved steady in its first test.
“I’ve played on this field from the time that I was nine,” said Boyles, a Raleigh native. “So it’s kind of, for me, a personal coming home.”
For Scarpa and Boyles, Friday was a homecoming in more ways than one.