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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels, Dorrance reach 750 wins

UNC forward Kealia Ohai (7) dibbles the ball up field.
UNC forward Kealia Ohai (7) dibbles the ball up field.

The No. 1 North Carolina women’s soccer team opened its ACC season against Virginia Tech on Thursday night with hopes of reversing the team’s past misfortunes in Blacksburg, Va., where the Tar Heels have not won a game or scored a goal since 2007.

A composed road performance and a pair of goals from some familiar faces got the job done and earned the Tar Heels a 2-1 victory against the Hokies, marking the 750th win for coach Anson Dorrance and continuing the team’s unbeaten season.

“It was in the back of our minds … the fact that our class had never won on that field,” senior Kealia Ohai said. “They have a great crowd and a great field and it’s a great atmosphere to play in. We knew it was going to be a challenge.”

It didn’t take long for the Tar Heels to best their most recent outings to Thompson Field.

Sophomore midfielder Paige Nielsen came off the bench midway through the first half and ended the program’s goal drought at Virginia Tech in the 35th minute. After containing a loose ball, she dribbled into the corner of the box and rifled a shot into the far high corner of the net.

Nielsen has consistently provided a spark off the bench for North Carolina as of late. This marks her third goal of the season, and all three have come within the final 10 minutes of the first half.

“What I love best about (Nielsen) is she is exceptionally bright,” Dorrance said. “She knows the game thoroughly and she always seems to make the correct run and the correct pass. For her to have three goals and three important goals in such a short period of time is to her credit.”

Nielsen said her main goal is just to give the starters some rest before the second half.

Ohai, one of those starters, has scored her fair share of goals. She scored her fifth goal of the season Thursday on a pass from fellow senior Crystal Dunn during a breakaway that gave her the opportunity to put one away from close range.

The team’s persistent offensive pressure played a big role in its milestone win. The Tar Heels finished the game with nine shots on goal, in comparison to Virginia Tech’s two.

“I think it is special,” Dorrance said about achieving 750 wins. “And what a great win tonight. It was our conference opener in an environment where, honestly, we’ve struggled. Their kids are just tough.

“I’m a proud son of the University of North Carolina, and I’m particularly proud of anything we achieve that reflects well on our University. And I think this certainly does that.”

Ohai added that the milestone is a testament to the abilities of the program’s coaching staff. To date, Dorrance has coached the Tar Heels to all 750 of their wins, with just 49 losses and 29 ties.

“All of the coaches have done so much for this program,” she said. “It’s truly why we win—because of our staff,” Ohai said. “We’re just lucky and thankful to be able to play for such amazing coaches.”

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