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The Daily Tar Heel

Freshmen foster women’s soccer success

For the North Carolina women’s soccer team, playing in the first round of the NCAA tournament has become a formality.

Sitting in the corner of Fetzer Field is a reminder of the 20 national championships won by former Tar Heel teams, including two by this year’s senior class.

While that storied history could be daunting for a freshman in her first NCAA Tournament game, Lucy Bronze had few nerves in UNC’s first round game against High Point.

“I didn’t really feel any jitters because obviously being from England, I don’t really understand the American system anyway so it’s just another game for me,” Bronze said.

The Brit from Northumberland, England, provided the Tar Heels’ only goal in their win against the Panthers and then accounted for a goal and an assist in UNC’s 4-0 victory against Georgia in the second round of the tournament Sunday.

Coach Anson Dorrance said the High Point game plan did not include Bronze being the margin of victory but credited her work ethic as a factor in her weekend performance.

“She’s a kid that came in here and worked herself to death,” Dorrance said. “She’s a quality player, and when we lost Nikki (Washington), we had to solve some problems at flank midfield between her and Maria Lubrano. I think they’ve done a very noble job at that position.”

Bronze has now scored two of her three career goals in postseason play. But it isn’t just the freshman Englishwoman who has stepped up her game in time for the tournament.

Fellow freshman Alyssa Rich had two shots that bounced off UGa. keeper Michelle Betos to keep Rich off the board, while Dorrance sang the praises of freshman Amber Brooks as well.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more important person to step up in light of the fact that Ali (Hawkins) was hurt,” Dorrance said. “For a freshman to take over part of the game is actually remarkable. I predict by the time she graduates she’ll be one of our best players.”

The trio of freshmen, along with freshman Ranee Premji, have logged several minutes for the defending national champions this postseason — a testament to their abilities.

“This squad had seven starters that won a national championship as freshmen, so for this young group to come in and even contribute to a collection of people of such high-caliber is very impressive,” Dorrance said.

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