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The Daily Tar Heel

W. Soccer: Heels snatch late ACC win in 88th minute

Heels convert penalty kick for win

North Carolina had never lost to Virginia in 35 previous meetings with the Cavaliers.DTH/Phong Dinh
North Carolina had never lost to Virginia in 35 previous meetings with the Cavaliers.DTH/Phong Dinh

North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance was trying every combination of players he could think of to crack the Virginia defense.

But on Saturday it took a couple of lucky bounces and a pair of arms to secure the 2-1 win for the UNC women’s soccer team.

North Carolina (12-1-1), the No. 2 team in the country, tried every trick in the book but was continually thwarted. Through balls, long balls, crosses and corners — nothing penetrated Virginia’s tough and physical defense.

“Virginia has been very good defensively as long as I can remember,” Dorrance said. “Coach Steve Swanson is really good at getting his defense to play well.”

The first goal came just five minutes into the second half when senior Whitney Engen sent a corner kick across the front of the goal that found freshman Alyssa Rich, who used her shoulder to put the ball away.

Virginia players contested the goal, saying that Rich used her arm, and therefore, it should have been a handball. But the official ruled in favor of Rich, and the goal stood.

Virginia answered with a goal of its own in the 60th minute, when the UNC defense failed to clear the ball out of its box, and Virginia’s Sinead Farrelly volleyed the ball into the bottom-left corner to even the score.

“Their goal was really unfortunate,” Dorrance said. “Our defense made an uncharacteristic mistake, and Virginia took advantage.”

The Cavaliers continued to pressure UNC, forcing goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to make several huge saves down the stretch. And just when it seemed the game was destined for overtime, UNC was given a helping hand at the end of the game.

Actually a helping handball.

In the 88th minute, senior midfielder Tobin Heath sent a low cross into the box, looking for a teammate to finish it off. Instead, the ball hit the arm of Virginia’s Emily Carrollo, and UNC was awarded a penalty kick.

Midfielder Ali Hawkins drove the resulting penalty into the lower left corner to lock up the victory for her team.

“Some people think that getting a penalty goal like that because of a handball is luck,” Dorrance said.

“But when you are constantly attacking like we were and having possession on their side of the field, those kind of things are going to happen.”

Despite the victory, North Carolina seemed out of sync all game long. Time after time the Tar Heels saw breakaways and buildups ruined by errant passes and bad touches.

“We talked at halftime about being too heavy with our passes,” Heath said.

Dorrance echoed Heath’s assessment and added that the player combinations were not working out as he had hoped they would.

“We were definitely missing a spark there in the beginning, so I changed up the front line by putting Tobin up front and bringing Rich and (Ranee) Premji in to add some pressure,” Dorrance said.

But much credit should be given to UVa., who played a very physical game and out-hustled the Tar Heels for much of the game.

Heath also said Virginia’s game plan against UNC wasn’t anything new.

“Teams try to pressure us all the time and try to get in our heads and frustrate us,” Heath said.

“We just need to stay focused and play our game and everything will take care of itself.”

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