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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels discover opponent's scouting report

Fresh off its sixth straight shutout, the top-seeded North Carolina women's soccer team didn't seem to need many adjustments to continue its defensive success.

But an unlikely discovery of another team's evaluation of UNC opened the Tar Heels' eyes to a defensive deficiency they themselves had overlooked.

One of the criticisms that we saw in the opposing team's scouting report was that our backs had the tendency to play off the other team's front line a bit" UNC coach Anson Dorrance said.

With that as incentive and with that as one of the game's goals" we told our backs to be very aggressive in closing down their front line.""

The Tar Heels' defensive changes worked to perfection Saturday as they stretched their shutout streak to seven. UNC shut down Illinois 3-0 to advance to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

Dorrance said the report was found in a barroom by a North Carolina parent and sent  in an e-mail to him earlier this week. 

He compared the find to locating an enemy's battle plans in war" saying it gave him a wealth of information on how other teams strategize against UNC.

The Illini could never find an offensive rhythm against UNC's back three of Whitney Engen Kristi Eveland and Rachel Givan. Every time Illinois would push the ball onto the Tar Heels' side of the field" one of them would usually step in front of a pass or quickly steal the ball away from an attacker.

Illinois didn't register a shot until the second half and didn't even get a strong scoring opportunity until UNC had the game in hand.

""With the numbers that they play in the midfield and the athleticism on Carolina's team" you don't have any room to make a bad touch any room to take an extra second to make a decision Illinois coach Janet Rayfield said.  Any time we did that tonight" you found us losing the ball or giving the ball away.

""It's a suffocating pressure.""

Engen in particular took the defense's increased focus on aggressiveness to heart. She swarmed Illinois attackers attempting to penetrate UNC's defense"" and she always seemed to emerge from those confrontations in control of the ball.

She was a big reason why the game was played almost exclusively with the Tar Heels having possession on Illinois' half of the field.

""We decided today how we should stay up on their players and don't let them turn. I don't know why we haven't been playing like that"" Engen said. It's just kind of like (Dorrance and UNC assistant coach Bill Palladino) opened our eyes to that today.""

Engen also said that all eleven players on the field contributed to this success of the defense by working hard to win battles for possession and making solid tackles that disrupted the Illini's offensive flow and dislodged the ball from its attackers.

But the Tar Heel's aggressive play paid dividends beyond keeping the ball out of their own goal. 

""It prevents them from going forward" but it also rests the legs of our midfielders Dorrance said.

Because if we allow the other team to face us and run at us" we're forcing our midfielders to sprint another 20 to 30 yards to track back and win the ball back.""

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