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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's soccer outshoots Pittsburgh for 1-0 win

The North Carolina women’s soccer team had never faced Pittsburgh before in program history, but on Thursday night it didn’t take long for the Panthers to get familiar with the Tar Heels and their high-octane offense.

The No. 6 Tar Heels (9-2, 3-2 ACC) settled into their aggressive style right from the beginning and quickly demonstrated their offensive firepower to the record-breaking crowd at Ambrose Urbanic Field with a 1-0 victory.

“I thought, in the first half, we were absolutely outstanding,” coach Anson Dorrance said. “We were moving the ball quickly and creating some wonderful chances.”

In the ninth minute, sophomores Katie Bowen and Paige Nielsen combined to give North Carolina the early lead. Bowen sent a low cross directly in front of the goal, and Nielsen swiftly got a foot on it, redirecting it past the keeper and into the net.

Dorrance commended the two sophomores and said Nielsen’s goal was a result of the team specifically trying to cross the ball into the penalty box.

North Carolina was certainly dominant on offense and left its mark all over the game, outshooting the Panthers 34-4 despite only winning with a one-goal margin.

“Unfortunately, even though we took shot after shot, we only managed to finish one,” Dorrance said. “But I’m still excited to get the conference win. I’m excited for the shutout.”

Dorrance added that the team is actively trying to become more sophisticated and more accurate on offense.

“We definitely felt that we should have had more goals,” Bowen said. “We got the win, which was good, but we weren’t fully satisfied. We just need to (work on finishing) over the next 10 days now that we have a break.”

A smothering defensive line helped keep the Tar Heels on top even though the offense could not increase the margin. Pittsburgh struggled to break into North Carolina’s defensive zone throughout the game and was held to just four shots on the night.

“Our defense did really well,” Bowen said. “Caitlin Ball had a great game. With only three (defenders) in the back, it’s hard to know when to step or not and she won a lot of balls for us and kept us on the attack.”

Ball, a junior who walked on to the team in her freshman year, has alternated between playing midfield and defense so far this season. With her stifling performance today, Dorrance said he plans to keep her on defense.

“She is an extraordinarily consistent performer,” he said. “She’s always cleaning up the mess and always making the correct decision. She’s just an absolutely wonderful player for us.”

Goalkeepers Anna Sieloff and Bryane Heaberlin each played a half in the goal, assisting the defense on the way to the team’s sixth shutout of the season and its second straight in conference play.

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