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The Daily Tar Heel

Kluegel's Assists Key in Tar Heel Victory

The only offensive statistic kept in international soccer is that of goals scored. There's no love given to the player who set up the goal.

But assists are a prominent part of American collegiate soccer, so much so that North Carolina's Jena Kluegel is the third-leading scorer on the nation's best scoring team despite finding the back of the net just three times this season.

Kluegel registered assists 18 through 21 on the season Sunday as the Tar Heels, who average 4.4 goals per game, eased past Wake Forest 5-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"With Jena playing the game of her life, we were able to be in a great position," UNC coach Anson Dorrance said.

For much of the game, the Tar Heel attack flowed through the left side of the field, where Kluegel plays on the wing.

Kluegel's crosses toward the middle looking for UNC forwards resulted in several scoring chances and one goal - Leslie Gaston's in the 50th minute.

Not only was Kluegel dangerous with her passes, but she also launched five shots toward Wake goalkeeper Tracy Chao. A 20-yard shot of hers in the 10th minute found the far post.

"Jena was attacking that flank the whole first half, and I thought some of our best attacks were generated down Jena's side," Dorrance said. "She was consistently beating (her defender) into space, she served great balls into seams, and her corner kicks were great."

Kluegel took 11 of the Tar Heels' 12 corners, two of which resulted directly in goals. She found Kalli Kamholz on nearly identical plays in the 16th and 86th minutes.

"Early in the season, we'd have a million corner kicks a game and wouldn't score on any of them," Kluegel said. "We've been working on them in practice. (Assistant coach Bill Palladino) would stand in a spot in the middle of the box, put his hands up and tell me to kick it to him. They've just gotten better game by game."

Kluegel has been the Tar Heels' playmaker throughout the season despite playing on the wing, as opposed to the more traditional setup spot in the center of midfield.

Her 21 assists rank first in the ACC and second in the nation behind Jacksonville's Marit Foss. Kluegel's average of 1.05 assists per game also stands second in the country.

Her four assists Sunday tied a career-high set Sept. 3 against Tennessee.

But that wasn't against an NCAA-tournament opponent; her four assists Sunday were.

Said Dorrance, "That was one of the best games I've ever seen a flank midfielder play, not just Jena Kluegel."

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