Following its worst ACC regular season showing in history, the North Carolina women's soccer team has been handed a clean slate for the conference tournament this weekend.
But the third-seeded Tar Heels (13-3, 4-3 in the ACC) will have to take advantage of their fresh start without their third-leading scorer.
Sophomore forward Susan Bush was lost for the remainder of the season when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during practice on Oct. 25.
Bush, who started 12 games this season and tallied nine goals and four assists, provided UNC with a source of speed up front that will be sorely missed.
"The first thing we lose is she turns the corner so quickly and so often and so easily," UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. "I would say on an average, six times a game, even against the best competition, she's turned the corner.
"Whenever you turn the corner against a team's defense, they're vulnerable. And she does that so consistently, maybe we took her for granted because you don't find many players that have that ability."
The Tar Heels travel to Duke's Koskinen Stadium today to face sixth-seeded N.C. State at 1 p.m. in the quarterfinals but will make the trip without Bush, who will be at UNC Hospitals for surgery at 9 a.m.
The winner of today's matchup will face the winner of the Wake Forest-Florida State game.
Bush tore the ligament during a defensive back pressure exercise when she turned to cross a ball and heard a pop in her right knee.
Although tests revealed that she had torn her ACL, Bush thought she might be able to finish the season. However, her mobility was hindered so much that surgery became the only option. She will face four to six months of rehabilitation.
"If I were to cut on the field, I would probably just fall over," said Bush, who missed time last season with injuries, including a medial collateral tear in her right knee. "If I played, I wouldn't be that useful. I couldn't be that effective."
Filling in for Bush will be another sophomore, Kim Patrick. Patrick has played in all 16 of UNC's contests this season, tallying eight goals and five assists.
She doesn't have the quickness Bush possesses, but she does have a nose for the goal. Her 18 goals and 42 points led the Tar Heels last season, although she started only 14 games.
"I've grown up that way. All coaches have always told me that," Patrick said. "I guess I feel most comfortable in front of the goal. You won't see me use lightning speed to get past people, but once I get in front of the goal I feel comfortable. And hopefully, I can provide us some goals this weekend."
The sixth-ranked Tar Heels will need all the scoring they can get. Their three conference losses at Clemson, FSU and Wake Forest are their most ever. Suddenly, a 12th consecutive ACC title doesn't seem like such a sure thing.
"We're just going to try to take it one game at a time, play hard, get focused and hopefully win," junior Anne Remy said after UNC's 6-0 win against Maryland on Sunday. "Anson told us, from now on after today, we lose and we're out."
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