On Friday night, North Carolina (1-0) fought off a tough challenge from Central Florida (0-1) to claim its season opener at Fetzer Field. The No. 9 Tar Heels battled through a poor first half and tallied two goals in a dominant second period to secure a 2-0 victory.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, as the Tar Heels struggled to gain their footing in a scoreless period. Each team had a chance to score, but neither could capitalize.
That changed in the second half.
After the Knights' Carol Rodrigues blasted a penalty kick over the crossbar in the 50th minute, the Tar Heels quickly rallied for their first goal of the season. Senior midfielder Sarah Ashley Firstenberg headed the ball past the goalie, courtesy of an impressive assist from redshirt junior defender Maya Worth.
North Carolina continued to control the possession and flow of the game after its first goal, adding another goal in the 64th minute off a header from junior midfielder Alex Kimball — who had subbed in for Firstenberg just seconds earlier.
Who stood out?
Firstenberg impressed in the second half for North Carolina, breaking the deadlock in the 53rd minute and giving North Carolina the offensive surge needed to push forward and seal the game.
First-year Bridgette Andrzejewski showed off her skills throughout the game, giving the Tar Heels a much-needed boost off the bench in the first half. Though she didn't score, the midfielder helped create several chances and looked like a natural starter in the second half.
Junior defender Maya Worth was another scoreless Tar Heel who greatly affected the game. She was aggressive and efficient on defense and displayed a solid passing ability. She was credited with an assist on UNC’s first goal and had several nice passes throughout the game.
When was it decided?
Penalty kicks usually don't help the defending team, but North Carolina capitalized on the Knights' miscue in the 50th minute. After Central Florida missed its penalty kick over the crossbar, the Tar Heels regained momentum and scored three minutes later — giving UNC the boost it needed to cruise to the win.
Why does it matter?
This match opens one of the most important seasons in the program’s 38-year history. UNC hasn't brought home a national championship trophy since 2012, which would make this year’s graduating class the first group of players not to win a title. This one win is a big step to a successful year.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will remain in Chapel Hill to face UNC-Charlotte at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
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