RALEIGH — Entering Thursday night’s matchup in Raleigh, the North Carolina women’s soccer team had lost to N.C. State just once since the teams began their series in 1985, and the Wolfpack had yet to win a conference game this season.
So when freshman striker Caroline Gentry slotted the ball past UNC goalie Adelaide Gay to give the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead less than six minutes in, the sea of red-clad fans in the bleachers exploded.
But with two goals from junior striker Kealia Ohai, the No. 8 Tar Heels (10-4-2, 6-3-1 ACC) rebounded in the second half and left with a 4-1 win.
“We came into the second half with a little bit more urgency but a little bit more control on the ball,” junior Crystal Dunn said. “We just wanted to try to connect passes, and that would help us build and build and build. And I think that’s what happened — we eventually just settled down and created some chances.”
Just after N.C. State (5-14-0, 0-10-0) scored, though, UNC looked like it was pressing. The Tar Heels sent shots wide, above and into the side netting of the goal — anywhere but in it.
“We had opportunities to shoot balls on frame, and we decided to hit it as hard as we could,” coach Anson Dorrance said. “We had opportunities to roll them into side panels, into corners, and we couldn’t do that. We had chances to beat the goalkeeper one-v-one and kept shooting it into her.
“If there was a mistake that we could have made in any one of our attacks, we picked a mistake.”
But that offensive inefficiency didn’t last.
After halftime UNC continued its barrage of shooting but played more relaxed, and in the 66th minute, its efforts were rewarded.
Ohai received the ball just inside the 18-yard box, composed herself and drove a shot into the bottom left corner to tie the game at one.
“Once we got that first goal, we kind of calmed down,” Ohai said. “The ball kind of started rolling.”
It rolled fast. Ohai scored again 13 minutes later, and senior Amber Brooks and freshman Summer Green sealed the win as they both netted goals in the last 10 minutes.
North Carolina ended the night with a staggering statistical advantage.
It outshot N.C. State 28 to seven, including 17 to three shots on goal, and had 10 more corner kicks.
But it was no guarantee that the goals would come, Dorrance said.
Ten years ago, in UNC’s sole loss to the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels outshot N.C. State 45 to 10.
“I’ve been in games where, no, it doesn’t come,” Dorrance said. “This game is incredibly unjust … I didn’t necessarily think we were going to win it, let alone win 4-1.”
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