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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels return to the NCAA Sweet 16

Freshman Lucy Bronze (center) scored two goals and added an assist on the weekend. DTH/Andrew Dye
Freshman Lucy Bronze (center) scored two goals and added an assist on the weekend. DTH/Andrew Dye

North Carolina needed 67 minutes and 26 shots to score its first goal against High Point on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Sunday was a different story as Courtney Jones put the Tar Heels (19-3-1) up for good in just the ninth minute of its 4-0 second round win against Georgia (15-6-1).

But Sunday’s game truly turned in the 27th minute when forward Casey Nogueira chested a ball down to midfielder Tobin Heath who, in one fluid motion, measured the shot then fired it out of the air into the top left corner of the goal to bust the game open for North Carolina.

And no one was prouder of the dominating performance than head coach Anson Dorrance.

“We’ve never played a team with as high an RPI (ratings percentage index) as Georgia has in the second round,” he said.

“For us to get through this second round with that kind of quality opponent with that kind of margin, I just feel very good right now.”

The win was a drastic change from the Tar Heels’ first-round win against High Point. In that game, UNC out-shot the Panthers 31-0 but ended with only one goal to show for it.

It wasn’t 31-0, but North Carolina dominated the shots again Sunday, out-shooting the Bulldogs 18-4.

This time, the Tar Heels finished their scoring opportunities and even saw two potential goals hit the crossbar. Not surprisingly, finishing was a point of emphasis entering the game for the Tar Heels.

“I think a lot of us need to step up and show that we can finish and that it doesn’t take 30 shots to get one goal,” Heath said. “So I think our focus was a lot better today.”

Another change from Friday was the return of junior forward Jessica McDonald to the starting lineup after missing the first half of the High Point game.

“She’s incredibly fast, she works very hard, and certainly she’s one of the best headers in the collegiate game right now,” Dorrance said. “Without her on the field we’re just not as good of a team.”

Dorrance did not expect to call on McDonald on Friday as the junior was nursing a knee-related injury.

But the head coach inserted McDonald in the second half of the then-scoreless game with the cold and wet conditions and High Point’s defense weighing down his team.

The junior played 25 minutes in that game and 49 minutes Sunday with her health at what she called 70 percent.

But even at 70 percent, McDonald was able to use her deceptive speed and leaping ability to beat the Bulldogs to nearly every 50-50 ball.

“I couldn’t do everything I wanted to, but I did it anyway,” she said.

McDonald said she believes she will be able to return to 100 percent before the Tar Heels’ third round game later this week.

In that game, UNC will face ACC foe Maryland in the third meeting between the teams this season.

The Tar Heels defeated Maryland in a hard fought 1-0 victory in its regular season finale then, three days later, beat them 3-0 in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.

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