Current Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 17:00:46 -0400
In the 76th minute of the No. 2 North Carolina women’s soccer team’s match with No. 4 Maryland, junior forward Emmalie Pfankuch dribbled the ball past the final Terrapin defender. With just the goalie separating her from a score, she fired off a shot.
The ball hit the post.
Haunted by lackluster finishes and missed opportunities Sunday at Fetzer Field, the Tar Heels (14-2-1, 6-2 ACC) lost an 80-minute lead and fell to Maryland (13-2-1, 5-2-1) 2-1 for the first time in program history.
UNC struggled to finish shots all game long, and coach Anson Dorrance, who has now lost just 38 games in his 32-year tenure at North Carolina, was quick to acknowledge the huge number of chances his team had to seal the game.
“Finishing is the absolute hardest thing to do in this game, and the second-hardest thing to do is the final pass,” Dorrance said. “I’m not going to pretend for a second that those opportunities were easy to finish. But I think we had enough to certainly win the game.”
In the fifth minute of the game, a failed Maryland pass allowed freshman forward Crystal Dunn to connect with striker Courtney Jones, who slipped the ball past the Terrapin goalie and into the left corner of the net.
The early UNC goal put Maryland on its toes, and the flustered Terrapins racked up 11 offside penalties, including three in a two-minute span, in their desperate attempt to tie the score.
“Their game plan was to just dump balls over the top and run onto them,” Dorrance said. “Obviously, if that’s your game plan, you’re going to take some risks to try to run in and time it properly.”
The Terrapins were down two starters as a result of red cards in their previous game against Wake Forest, and Maryland struggled to keep possession throughout the match.
Though the Tar Heels set the pace for most of the game, an extremely physical Terrapin squad kept UNC from shooting during the final 21 minutes of the first half.
“We’re used to teams playing us that way,” Dorrance said. “Is it easy to play against? No. Is it frustrating and difficult to play against? Absolutely. But that’s just something we have to become accustomed to and deal with a bit better.”
UNC suffered yet another shooting drought late in the second half, and in a flash watched as the game’s momentum changed hands.
With less than 13 minutes left in the match, the Maryland goalie punted the ball to unmarked Terrapin forward Sade Ayinde, who finished into the right side of the net to tie the score.
Seven minutes and three UNC fouls later, Ayinde took a free kick just outside the box. With a swing of her leg, she sent the ball underneath a jumping wall of Tar Heel defenders and into the back of the net for the go-ahead score.
Jones said the Tar Heels’ play lacked the team’s usual drive. But with the ACC Tournament fast approaching, the striker is confident she’ll see it return.
“I don’t know if we brought that (energy) entirely,” she said. “If we can all work collectively on that, then I think we’re going to win another national championship.”
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