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Nogueira gives UNC women's soccer NCAA win

Senior forward Casey Nogueira scored during UNC’s win against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament. DTH/Will Cooper
Senior forward Casey Nogueira scored during UNC’s win against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament. DTH/Will Cooper

North Carolina goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris admitted in the post-game press conference that the UNC defense was not flawless against Maryland on Saturday.

“You’re not going to be perfect all 90 minutes,” Harris said. “I’m sure not. I’d like to be.”

But after UNC’s eighth straight shutout victory, senior midfielder Tobin Heath had to disagree.

“Pretty perfect,” she said.

The Tar Heels’ 1-0 victory against Maryland in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday was UNC’s 17th shutout of the year and marked 742 minutes since a team has scored a goal on the defending national champions.

“Because of all the nicks and injuries and national team issues, this team doesn’t have the overall record of the kind of team I thought we could have this fall,” head coach Anson Dorrance said. “Still, at our best, this team is absolutely extraordinary.”

The Terrapins (14-6-2) held their own against UNC (20-3-1) in the first half at Fetzer Field. The Tar Heels racked up 10 shots in the first period, but Maryland keeper Mary Casey had six saves to foil the UNC attack.

Maryland put UNC to work on the defensive end as well. Speedy forward Jasmyne Spencer and midfielder Molly Dreska each had one shot on goal for the Terps. Those shots were Harris’ only two saves of the match.

“You could see from that match that Maryland came in and was committed to win,” Dorrance said. “A lot of teams try to bunker against us, and that wasn’t part of Maryland’s game plan at all. They presented us all kinds of challenges and problems.”

The Tar Heels were more selective in the second half, while the Maryland defense remained impervious.

But with just more than eight minutes left in regulation, Jessica McDonald and Casey Nogueira saw an opportunity.

The Terrapin defense packed into the box for a throw-in when McDonald, who has the longest throw on the team, stepped to the sideline.

Nogueira stood close by without a defender near her. When McDonald recognized this, she passed to the foot of Nogueira, who struck from 25 yards for the game winner.

“We usually throw a long throw into the box. Instead Jess saw me wide open,” Nogueira said. “It kind of caught the Maryland players off guard.”

Nogueira’s six shots, three on goal, were a game-high.

Saturday’s match was a microcosm of Nogueira’s recent play. In six postseason games, she has three goals on 38 shots and four assists. She had six goals and five assists in the previous 19 games.

“When she hits the ball, it always has a chance,” Dorrance said. “And what I like about what she’s doing right now is shoot as often as she can. I have no qualms with that.”

Of the eight teams remaining in the tournament, four hail from the ACC. UNC faces another conference opponent in Wake Forest on Friday in a match that will decide who goes to College Station, Texas, for the College Cup.

“One of the teams is going to walk off and their season is going to be done,” Harris said. “That in and of itself is enough motivation, especially for us seniors. We’re going to do everything we can to kill ourselves out there.”


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