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UNC women’s soccer rebounds with two wins in Florida

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Crystal Dunn of UNC Women’s Soccer

With injuries hampering its defense, slowed production from its go-to scorers and two losses in its past three games, a road trip to Florida didn’t sound too appealing to the North Carolina women’s soccer team, especially considering recent history.

On an identical road trip in 2009, UNC floundered in a pair of upset losses.

But this time around, No. 11 UNC found cures for many of its ills on its journey through the Sunshine State, securing 2-0 and 4-1 victories against Florida State and Miami, respectively, to move to 8-2 (3-1 ACC) this season.

In wins against the Seminoles and the Hurricanes, UNC drew strength from its defense and its starting strikers, two units that have struggled this season.

After mustering a combined three goals through the first eight games of the season, forwards Courtney Jones and Kealia Ohai — the team’s leading scorers a year ago — scored three times in the pair of wins.

“Both me and Kealia were having a little bit of a slow start in trying to get the ball in the back of the net, and in our game against Florida State, it finally came together, at least for me,” Jones said.

“I told Kealia, ‘I finally got that goal, and a weight was lifted off. It’s your turn now.’ She got that goal today (against Miami), and I think it’s really going to help us in the future.”

Jones’ cross-frame strike in the 29th minute of Thursday’s contest against No. 9 FSU was particularly crucial, placing the Seminoles in a 2-0 halftime hole.

The UNC defense kept FSU off the board the rest of the way to record its third shutout of the season, which came in the wake of a formation change by Tar Heel coach Anson Dorrance.

Dorrance cited the fitness of his roster as a primary factor in his decision to switch from his usual 3-4-3 to a 4-2-3-1 prior to UNC’s matchup with FSU.

“We don’t have a healthy roster, so we’re just limping through second halves and overtime periods,” Dorrance said.

“We got burned in a couple of our overtimes because we just don’t have a good fitness base right now with our starting unit.”

But with an added defender, UNC’s backline held firm all weekend, conceding a goal to the Hurricanes only after many of the team’s starters had been substituted off with the Tar Heels up 4-0.

The new formation has also afforded Jones, Ohai and Crystal Dunn more space to operate. In Sunday’s win against the Hurricanes, the three combined for two goals and a pair of assists.

“With Crystal up high, we can play off of her,” Jones said. “She’s so good with her back to goal that she can take two or three players on toward goal, where me and Kealia love beating people on the outside.”

With this new shape, UNC moved forward on a trip during which it had simply hoped to tread water.

“This was not an easy road trip for us,” Dorrance said. “It’s a wonderful tribute to the effort of these kids, especially those who are coming back from all our injuries. And with all these players out, this is just two massive wins for us.”

Contact the Sports Editor

at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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