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The Daily Tar Heel

W. Soccer: Late goals power Heels

UNC wins in tight defensive battle

Nearly 82 minutes into the clash between the No. 1 North Carolina women’s soccer team and No. 13 Texas A&M, Tobin Heath found herself in a familiar position.

In a scoreless game where both teams were making it hard to even get a shot off, Heath had already seen a potential assist to Casey Nogueira broken up at the last second and a potential assist to Jessica McDonald sail high off McDonald’s foot.

But Heath made the same play again, this time paying off as Nikki Washington was able to score the first goal of the game in UNC’s 2-0 win against the Aggies Saturday.

“(Ali Hawkins) played me a great ball in, and I looked up and Nikki, who is an outside midfielder, who was just busting her butt all game, got all the way down line,” Heath said. “That’s a long sprint that she made, and I just saw her open, and I just played her the ball and she finished it.”

McDonald added a score in the 88th minute to give the Tar Heels (6-0) their goal.

The two late goals were an offensive explosion considering the way the game went prior to the final nine minutes.

The game was a battle that has become typical when these teams get together. The last six matches between the two schools have been decided by one goal.

“They’re a very difficult team to play against,” head coach Anson Dorrance said. “They’re combative and hard working. They challenge every ball in the air. They’re direct in a very dangerous way. … They always play us tough, and today’s game was no exception.”

UNC outshot the Aggies (4-3) 5-2 in the first half, and, while they had nothing to show for it, their spirits were not deterred.

“It’s a relentless attitude that we always try to display out here. We just knew we had to keep going,” Washington said. “We missed opportunities, which means we were getting opportunities. We were almost there, just missing the final piece.”

Heath, who Dorrance said is playing as well as any player in America, was a reason they were able to find that piece. But along with the senior midfielder, Dorrance credited the bench.

“Today the performance of Amber Brooks, of Lucy Bronze... and Alyssa Rich, three outstanding reserve players, gave us tremendous energy,” he said.

Washington said the help of players like Bronze gives her a chance to make the long runs like the one she made on her goal Saturday.

The Tar Heels will need to get good play down the line again as they continue their daunting non-conference schedule with the Duke Nike Classic starting Friday against LSU.

But the Tar Heels relish the learning experiences that come from these types of clashes.

“It’s these games that we learn the most from — coming in at halftime 0-0 and figuring out what we have to do to get a goal in the back of the net,” Heath said. “And we did, so I’m proud of our team.”

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