More than often, the latter scenario points out major flaws and missed opportunities. But after the No. 8 North Carolina women’s soccer team dropped its ACC Tournament semifinal game to No. 4 Florida State 2-1, Coach Anson Dorrance drew attention to something that couldn’t be seen by looking at the scoreline — the Tar Heels can still dominate against tough competition.
“The way I look at the performance of my team is, ‘Did we control the game?’” Dorrance said. “I really don’t feel like (Florida State) came out of that second half feeling like they controlled anything.
“I think the ones that are spiritual get down on their knees and say, ‘Thank God we got away with that one.’”
In mid-October, UNC fell to the Seminoles 1-0. While the Tar Heels walked out of the match having lost by just one, Dorrance and his players agree it could have been a lot worse.
“We really should have been down three or four goals in the first half,” said junior midfielder Joanna Boyles.
Friday’s contest was almost the complete opposite for the Tar Heels. Even though the two teams’ statistics were similar, UNC controlled the pace of the game from the beginning.
“I think (Friday’s) match we really took it to them ...” Boyles said. “The ball just didn’t go our way.”
The earlier loss to Florida State came in the middle of a three-game losing streak for North Carolina, a feat that had only occurred one previous time in program history.
But the Tar Heels were able to rebound and rattle off three straight wins to earn a bid into the conference tournament, building confidence each step of the way. Friday saw an end to UNC’s winning run, but that conviction did not waver — it grew.
“I think it gave us the belief we needed to know that we can beat the teams of FSU’s caliber,” said Alexa Newfield, who notched her team-leading 10th goal of the season in the 49th minute. “Although it’s a loss it helped the team morale, because we don’t feel the way the last time we played them.”
With the loss, the Tar Heels now look to the NCAA Tournament, where they will try to claim their 23rd national championship. And while UNC’s seed is still up in the air, Dorrance believes his team will be a threat wherever they land.
“Our goal is going to be to blow up the bracket,” he said. “And I can tell, if anyone watches our game against FSU, and they see us in their bracket, they’re gonna be going, ‘Holy ... fill in the blank.’”