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The Daily Tar Heel

Women's soccer mounts overtime comeback

UNC forward Kealia Ohai (7) takes a free kick as a Syracuse defender tries to block.
UNC forward Kealia Ohai (7) takes a free kick as a Syracuse defender tries to block.

The North Carolina women’s soccer team proved Sunday afternoon that not only can it defeat top-level teams like No. 22 Wake Forest, but it can also come from behind to prevail, even when the offense is struggling to score.

No. 5 UNC fought back from a first-half deficit to defeat the Demon Deacons 2-1 in overtime and clinch home-field advantage for the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.

“In every respect, I loved the game,” coach Anson Dorrance said. “I loved that we faced some adversity by going down a goal. I love the fact that we demonstrated some resilience by getting back in the game with the tying goal.

“I love the fact that we went to overtime with a really aggressive positive attitude to try to win it. And we did.”

Despite the Tar Heel offense piling on pressure the entire game and tallying 19 total shots, the Demon Deacons needed just one opportunity to gain the early lead, and scored on their first shot of the game in the 28th minute.

“It’s really easy to get down once we get scored on in the first half, but I think the whole team’s response was great,” senior Kealia Ohai said.

Ohai responded well, playing the role of the hero once again as she scored the game-winner in the 98th minute after dispossessing a defender in the penalty box. Of Ohai’s eight goals on the season, Sunday’s was her fourth game-winner.

But the comeback was nothing short of a team effort.

A collective effort on defense held Wake Forest to just two more shots after its first goal. And a tying goal from senior Crystal Dunn in the second half sent the Tar Heels to overtime, where Ohai sealed the victory.

“I think we’re one of the few teams in the women’s collegiate game where there’s a big emphasis on everyone’s defending,” Dorrance said. “And I think it pays us back … I’m very proud of the fact that we’re dominant and we defend hard.”

Ohai and senior goalkeeper Anna Sieloff both added that the team’s defense was crucial in its comeback.

“Our defense has been vital this whole year,” Sieloff said. “They were doing a great job not only playing defense but also getting our attack going.”

Dorrance said that seeing both the offense and the defense responding so well to adversity is a reason to be optimistic for the postseason.

“I think (the girls) can taste that we have a potential to have a really good team,” he said. “I think everyone can feel it now.

“Obviously this is what happened at the end of last season when we went on that great run after the first round loss in the ACC tournament. I think the kids are starting to sense that. And you know what, this team has some nice pieces too.”

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