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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 6 UNC shuts out Liberty 3-0 to advance to 2nd round of NCAA Tournament

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.

What happened?

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.

Who stood out?

UNC’s reserves shined throughout the game, helping UNC take the momentum in the first half. Firstenberg, sophomore midfielder Dorian Bailey and first-year forward Zoe Redei lead the charge, coming off the bench to help catapult their team into the lead.

Firstenberg’s header across the box helped another reserve, Schultz, find the back of the net. Bailey and Redei were both clean and tactical on the ball in the first period, something UNC needed after a sloppy start to the game.

The three played so well in the first half, in fact, that they each earned a starting spot going into the second period. They didn’t disappoint, as Bailey scored UNC’s second goal to put the game out of reach for the Flames.

When was it decided?

Schultz’ goal put the Tar Heels out in front, and they didn’t look back. Her shot was part of a 27-0 streak after Liberty led two shots to one early in the game.

Schultz has had a knack for goals when they matter most. Each of her three goals this season have been game-winners. While just a first-year, the forward has made big-time plays for the Tar Heels when they need it most.

Why does it matter?

The win put UNC through to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels can expect to face more ball pressure and tougher defenses as they advance in this tournament, so being able to find their rhythm and battle through adversity will be key going forward.

Where do they play next?

UNC will be back at Fetzer Field on Friday to face the winner between Kansas and Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.


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