On a day where the attention is focused on seniors, it was a freshman who stole the show.
Freshman Megan Buckingham did a little bit of everything to help her team overcome a slow start and shut out Miami 3-0 Sunday afternoon at Fetzer Field. The No. 5 Tar Heels (11-2-2, ACC 8-0-1) were sluggish out of the gate, something head coach Anson Dorrance thinks may have been lingering effects from Thursdays double-overtime tie with No. 2 Florida State.
“I thought the Florida State game took a lot out of us,” Dorrance said. “We didn’t start with a lot of enthusiasm. We had very little pressure up front. My two center-halves were run ragged because we couldn’t press the ball. My defense didn’t have any compaction.”
With the defense struggling, Buckingham got UNC going with some aggressive offense. In the 29th minute, Buckingham sent a pretty pass to junior Paige Nielsen in the middle of the box. A Miami foul gave Nielsen a penalty kick, which she buried in the bottom right corner to put the Tar Heels up 1-0.
Minutes later, Buckingham ripped a deep strike that nearly curved into the top right corner of the goal, but careened off the cross bar and out of bounds.
After switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation, Dorrance said his girls played better, but Miami failed to find pay dirt on a number of first and second half opportunities.
Sophomore Emily Bruder put UNC up 2-0 in the 54th minute on her team-leading fifth goal of the season. Sophomore Joanna Boyles sent a perfect through ball, hitting Bruder in stride. The forward blasted a shot from the right side of the box that screamed past Miami goalkeeper Emilly Lillard.
In the 77th minute, Buckingham got back in the action when sophomore Cameron Castleberry played a ball to the end line before sending a perfect cross to the back post. The 5-foot-5 Buckingham left her feet and sent a header that banked off the post, then Lillard, before sneaking into the left side of the goal.
“What’s amazing about Megan is this little, tiny, skinny squirt was doing our technical testing at the beginning of the year and we’re doing a heading test,” Dorrance said. “I’m thinking she’s probably going to get brain damage from this test and all of a sudden she steps up and heads the ball like 40 yards. And I’m looking at her thinking how can this tiny little peanut generate that kind of power?”
Buckingham is used to the small jokes from her head coach, and says they don’t bother her one bit.
Instead, they make her play harder.
“He always says that to me, how I’m really small and he’s surprised when I get tackles and stuff,” Buckingham said. “But I guess that’s more motivation to not let people talk about me like that.”
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