It was a shaky start for the No. 6 North Carolina women’s soccer team against Liberty. But once the Tar Heels settled in, they dominated their way to a 3-0 victory.
UNC looked shaken in the first 15 minutes of play. Plagued by sloppy passes, especially from the back, the Tar Heels were completely disjointed and outplayed by the Flames.
UNC has become accustomed to the role of aggressor, playing a high-tempo and high-pressure style of soccer. But Liberty gave the Tar Heels a taste of their own medicine, forcing turnovers by pressuring the ball as UNC scrambled on defense.
The Flames threatened early, leading UNC in shots through the first 11 minutes of the game. But once thee Tar Heels turned it on, the momentum shifted entirely to their side. Passes started to find their targets and and attacks started to manifest into genuine chances.
When coach Anson Dorrance brought on the reserves, the Tar Hills kicked it into another gear. UNC’s depth allowed them to outpace the Flames, and the fresh legs earned UNC a late-half goal.
After a beautiful cross from junior forward Megan Buckingham, senior forward Sarah Ashley Firstenberg played a header back across the goal for forward Madison Schultz. The first-year poked in her third goal in five games to give the Tar Heels the 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
To start the second half, the game looked like a replay of the first period. Once again, Liberty gave UNC trouble with its ball pressure. This time, the Tar Heels responded much more quickly.
After settling back into the game, UNC completely ran away with it. The Tar Heel attack put on a show, stringing together attack after attack. UNC outshot Liberty 18-0 in the second half, putting 14 of them on goal. UNC jumped out to a 3-0 lead, helping them coast to the next round of the NCAA Tournament.