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The Daily Tar Heel

Women's soccer 3-0 win displays team's depth

If there has been one differentiating factor threaded through the success of North Carolina women’s soccer over the years, it has been the program’s tremendous depth.

UNC has long held the type of talent reserve that mercilessly pounds opponents with wave upon wave of high school All-Americans as the match moves into its later stages.

And it is this stable of standout players that made Sunday’s 3-0 victory possible at Ohio State, a win in which senior Adelaide Gay, UNC’s third-string goalkeeper, recorded a shutout against the 18th-ranked Buckeyes in just her second career start as a Tar Heel.

Pressed into the starting role against OSU with injuries sidelining keepers Hannah Daly and Anna Sieloff, Gay made three saves on nine Buckeye shots to preserve her first clean sheet.

“Addie’s been just a warrior,” coach Anson Dorrance said. “She’s played for us very well through our spring training, and even though she’s been our No. 3 keeper behind Sieloff and Daly, we’ve really liked the way she plays.”

The senior transfer from Yale University made her first start at UNC against Houston last weekend, but her performance against the Buckeyes, an NCAA semifinalist a year ago, offered the true litmus test.

On Sunday, Dorrance came away impressed with Gay’s savvy and confidence in net.

“She’s a very smart goalkeeper, she’s very composed and she makes wonderful decisions …she was very good behind our flat line,” Dorrance said, referring to North Carolina’s three-man defense.

“It’s not easy to play in goal for the Tar Heels, and she did exceptionally well.”

With Gay and the UNC backline holding the Buckeyes at bay, North Carolina’s offense moved fluidly within the OSU end, something the Tar Heels did not do well earlier in the season.

Amber Brooks put UNC ahead in the 35th minute, netting her first tally of the season on a free-kick strike from just outside the 18-yard box.

Kealia Ohai then gave North Carolina a 2-0 cushion, skirting her defender to net her second goal of the season in the 59th minute. In the 78th minute, Emmalie Pfankuch completed the scoring, smashing home a rebound from close range to establish the final 3-0 margin.

“We’re starting to develop a little bit better offensive rhythm, which I thought was an issue for us against Nebraska and Notre Dame, so I was really happy with that.” Dorrance said.

A key cog in that development has been sophomore Crystal Dunn, who Dorrance terms the team’s most versatile player. With the ability to play any position on the field that doesn’t involve a pair of gloves, Dunn is an interchangeable part of Dorrance’s lineup.

“We can use Crystal anywhere, so what we do is we basically form our team with the other 10 players playing their best positions, and wherever the hole is, we drop Crystal in it,” Dorrance said.

“Right now, we’re a little slow at flank midfield, so we’re starting Crystal there.”

Dunn’s talents earned her ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season and recently garnered the attention of U.S. women’s national team coach Pia Sundhage, who has invited Dunn and Brooks to the upcoming tryouts for the 2012 Olympic team.

The tryout might force the two players to miss a few games later on in UNC’s season, but if Gay’s performance was any measure of the team’s depth, an adequate replacement is close at hand.

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