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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's soccer advances to NCAA quarterfinal with 1-0 win over Clemson

The North Carolina women's soccer team defeated the Clemson Tigers, 1-0, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Fetzer Field on Sunday.

What happened?

Sunday's matchup was just as tight as the first time the two sides faced off. Both teams had a handful of half-chances in the first 45 minutes, but neither team could break through. 

UNC's best chance of the first half came in the fifth minute. After receiving the ball on a short corner, junior midfielder Buckingham lofted a cross to the far post. Sophomore Julia Ashley was waiting there, but opted to put a boot on the ball instead of her head and lifted it high over the bar. 

Clemson almost struck first in the 27th minute, when redshirt senior Jenna Polonsky got to the ball in the Tar Heel box. She got off a shot, but it was saved by a North Carolina defender before it could fins the back of the net. 

UNC controlled the game for the final 15 minutes of the first half but couldn't finish. The Tar Heels only outshot the Tigers, 7-6, in the first half, but looked like the more dangerous side in the first 45.

Clemson opened up the second half a little more aggressive, and it almost paid off in the 54th minute. After a long throw was cleared straight into the air, the Tigers' Allie Kington got her head on the ball, which beat UNC keeper Lindsey Harris but bounced off the left post and wide. 

From there North Carolina started to build things up again, and it paid off in the 71st minute. 

After jumping on a loose ball at the top of the box, sophomore midfielder Dorian Bailey took a few dribbles and unleashed a curler toward the top-left corner. The ball grazed the far post and bounced across goal and in to give UNC a 1-0 lead.

The Tar Heels would hold tough for the final 19 minutes, earning a trip to the national quarterfinal.

Who stood out?

On the back line, Ashley once again played well above her experience level. Even though she's just a sophomore, Ashley was consistently the most dependable player on the back line Sunday, whether it be by shutting down the Tiger attack or cleaning up her teammates mistakes. 

She also proved a valuable asset on the offensive end, as she Tar Heels' primary long set-piece taker.

Buckingham also played inspired soccer against Clemson. While her name isn't on the scoresheet, she time and time again set up chances for UNC in the final third. 

Buckingham hasn't gotten the praise of some of her younger teammates, but Dorrance said at the start of the tournament she has been the Tar Heels' most consistent field player this season.

When was it decided?

Although North Carolina captured the lead in the 71st minute, the game wasn't over until the final whistle. The Tigers sent numbers forward for the better part of the games' final minutes, but couldn't come up with the equalizer.

Why does it matter?

With the win, North Carolina advances one game closer to the the College Cup. The Tar Heels haven't been this far in the tournament since they lost to UCLA in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2012.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels will take on top-seeded South Carolina in Columbia on Friday. The game time is to be determined. 

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@jbo_vernon

sports@dailytarheel.com