Coming off of a disappointing loss to Florida State in the ACC Tournament, North Carolina was hungry for a win.
And when the Tar Heels took the field against Liberty on Friday night, they were not disappointed.
UNC kicked off its NCAA Tournament run with a 3-0 win over the Flames at Fetzer field. With the victory, the Tar Heels advanced to the second round of the tournament.
The No. 8 Tar Heels started the game with aggression, outshooting the Flames 6-0 in the first 20 minutes. But in spite of finding a number of opportunities, North Carolina was unable to break Liberty’s back line to score.
As the clock wound down in the first half, chances to score waned on both sides. UNC failed to find an opportunity to break the Liberty defense, and the battle began to shift to the midfield. The score remained gridlocked at 0-0.
But the second half was different.
Less than two minutes into the final 45, Jessie Scarpa found an opportunity off of a UNC corner kick and was quick to capitalize. Scarpa headed the ball past Liberty’s redshirt junior goalkeeper Holly Van Noord, giving the Tar Heels the lead.
Scarpa’s goal set the tone for the rest of the half, as North Carolina pressured Liberty with heightened intensity, hungry for more points.
With 28 minutes left in the half, Scarpa found Megan Buckingham at the top of the box. Buckingham fired the ball to the top of the net, extending UNC’s lead to 2-0.
In the face of a strong North Carolina defense, Liberty was unable to answer UNC’s goals.
But as the half went on, it became clear that North Carolina was not satisfied with a two-goal lead. Patiently, UNC remained aggressive and continued to look for chances to score.
In the 83rd minute, Alexa Newfield found a final chance for the Tar Heels. Off of an assist from Megan Buckingham, Newfield fired a shot into the corner of the goal, bringing UNC to a 3-0 lead.
Following Newfield’s final goal, the Tar Heels clamped down on the Liberty attack, leaving the Flames scoreless and a securing a position in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We feel like for us to win the game against I think a very competitive Liberty team is certainly a credit to the kids that were out there.” — Coach Anson Dorrance on his team’s performance
North Carolina earned this victory without two of their starting midfielders. Cameron Castleberry and Joanna Boyles, who both tore their ACLs in practice earlier this week.
3 numbers that matter
17: 17 different Tar Heels saw the field Friday as Dorrance had to stretch his roster to make up for the losses of Boyles and Castleberry.
21: North Carolina tallied 21 shots in the game.
3: Liberty was only able to amass three shots in the entire game
The Tar Heels will take on either Texas A&M or Washington next weekend in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
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