“I think we’ve been working a lot with communicating with the lines in front of us,” she said. “Especially us as a backline, just trying to get our attacking mids, our holding mids and our wings to areas where they can block off passes or lanes for them to get in behind us.”
Syracuse rarely possessed the ball on the offense, and the team had only four shots on goal for the entire game.
Syracuse’s apparent lack of effort on the offensive end helped the defense, too. After its offensive attack would fizzle out, the Syracuse forwards would back off rather than pressure UNC's defense as it cleared the ball to midfield.
North Carolina rarely gave up possession and used midfield control to generate constant scoring opportunities, outshooting Syracuse 26-8. Despite the effort from Syracuse goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, who had 11 saves, North Carolina's sheer volume was overwhelming as it notched a season high in goals scored.
The name of the game was redshirt senior midfielder Joanna Boyles, who registered the first hat trick of her career. Those three goals brought her season total for the year up to six, two more than she scored during her junior season.
“I know if I get in the box, someone can find my head,” Boyles said. “That was something we really worked on in practice, and we really wanted to see if we could translate it to the game, and we were able to.”
The game was a sort of homecoming for Boyles, who played her club games as an adolescent at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, which is the complex that serves as North Carolina’s home field this year.
“For me personally, I love playing out here at WakeMed, it’s like home to me,” Boyles said. “Just going back to the club days of playing a 12 o’clock game on a Saturday is just super exciting ... There’s only so many times you can go back kind of in time, and this is one of those times.”
The team has taken well to WakeMed while the new soccer stadium on UNC's campus is being built. Despite the game being 30 minutes away from campus, North Carolina still attracted a crowd for the noon Saturday kickoff. More than a few of the spectators were local supporters for Boyles.
“It's awesome, all of my family is able to come out,” Boyles said. “I love having everyone here supporting me, and it’s just an unbelievable journey they’ve all been on with me, and I’m just so grateful to have them.”
North Carolina has now won four games in a row, all against ACC opponents, with three shutouts in that time. The Tar Heels have controlled both sides of the field in conference play, and Saturday was a textbook example.