Without a veteran presence on the front line, the Tar Heels have only scored 12 goals in eight games. If the Tar Heels continue at the same clip, they could potentially break the 2014 team’s record for the fewest goals scored in a season (31).
The absence of forward Jessie Scarpa — who chose to redshirt the 2016 season to play for the U.S. U-20 national team this fall — has certainly hurt the Tar Heels, but the team is not without attacking talent. First-years Zoe Redei and Bridgette Andrzejewski have combined to score five of the Tar Heels’ 12 goals. But recently, the pair — and the rest of the team, for that matter — has failed to put the ball in the back of the net.
“We have a lot of opportunities to score, and it’s not like we’re playing really badly,” said sophomore midfielder Dorian Bailey. “It’s just we’ve got to be better in the final third.”
In the losses to USC (6-2) and N.C. State (7-2, 1-0 ACC), North Carolina tallied at least 10 shots but couldn’t finish. The Tar Heels outshot the Wolfpack 12-4 but rarely created chances inside the other team’s box.
Of course, creating chances also falls on the midfielders and back line — who can feed the players up top and get them in attacking position. But UNC hasn’t done a great job at this, either.
“It’s not just the forwards not scoring,” said senior co-captain Darcy McFarlane. “We have to create opportunities for them. And obviously you can’t get scored on, so I think it’s just a full team effort.”
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, the team is not without leadership. McFarlane and fellow co-captain Hanna Gardner — the only member of UNC’s team to play during its 2012 championship season — were tasked with rallying their troops following the loss to Southern California, and they will no doubt play a big part in whether or not the team can rebound after falling to the Wolfpack.
“I didn’t think our morale suffered the way it could classically after that kind of defeat (against USC),” Dorrance said. “I think we have good leadership, and they responded during the training week. And now we have to see equally good leadership to see if we can bounce back from this.”
Of course, leadership is just one of the ingredients for success. If the Tar Heels want to challenge for their 23rd national title in December, they will have to put together all the pieces — and also try to avoid weeks like this last one.