With Sydney Holman sidelined with an undisclosed injury, North Carolina’s vaunted offense was without its leading distributor. But in a 21-9 victory , UNC showed that one missing piece doesn’t detract from the whole.
Behind five-goal games from senior Abbey Friend and sophomore Aly Messinger , the Tar Heel victory was never in doubt.
The victory was UNC’s 15th straight win dating back to last season, the longest streak in program history.
The offense looked different. There were a lot more 1-on-1 attacks from the star goal-scorers which lead to 17 unassisted goals . But even though it looked different, the outcome was very much the same.
Coach Jenny Levy said that she was proud of the way her team performed in Holman’s absence.
“I think it’s a testament to the type of depth that we have,” Levy said.
“And it may look a little bit different, and it may feel a little bit different, but to get the result we got tonight I was happy with our team performance.”
Depth has been key in UNC’s 11-0 start in its national title defense. Seven different Tar Heels have scored more than 10 goals in what continues to be the best start in school history .
The five-goal performance from Messinger was her second consecutive game with five goals . She scored four in the first half to lead UNC to a 12-6 halftime lead.
Messinger said that the interchangeable parts on this team are what makes it so unique.
“Luckily we have such a unique team where we have a lot of people that can fill in,” Messinger said.
“It was hard not playing with (Holman) on the field, but I thought we did a really good job bringing other people in.
“It was really great to see everyone doing what they can do.”
A six-goal lead at halftime quickly became 12, partly due to senior Taylor George scoring three straight goals early in the second period. Messinger said there was a focus on playing sharp after halftime despite having a sizable lead.
“Coming out of halftime we really wanted to just be sharp,” Messinger said, “I know the first half we were making a lot more turnovers than we wanted to, we just really wanted to be sharp in the second half.”
George, who finished with four goals in the game, said it’s important during the stretch of an entire season to be able to give someone a day off when they need it .
“I think that’s huge,” George said. “Our whole team can come in and play and have something to contribute.
“I think today it really showed.”
Messinger agreed, saying that when it comes to crunch time anything can happen, and if a player gets injured someone needs to be able to step in for them.
“When it comes crunch time, when we’re in the tournament or whatever, we need people to do that because you never know what’s going to happen,” Messinger said. “So we take pride in making sure everyone’s ready.”
Depth is an easy thing for teams to flaunt when everyone is healthy and it isn’t needed. But the game was proof that UNC can rely on its substitutes to step up when it matters.