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The Daily Tar Heel

Underclassmen carry UNC women's soccer into NCAA quarterfinals

UNC forward Madison Schultz (1) prepares to send a long pass against Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.

UNC forward Madison Schultz (1) prepares to send a long pass against Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.

For the majority of the regular season, first-years Zoe Redei and Bridgette Andrzejewski carried North Carolina, which came into the season unsure who would bear the scoring burden.

Redei scored three times in the Tar Heels’ first five games of the season, but she missed eight games down the stretch with an ankle injury. Picking up where her teammate left off, Andrzejewski tallied seven goals in conference play and earned ACC Freshman of the Year honors.

But in the past three weeks, it’s been first-year Madison Schultz who has stepped up the most. In UNC’s 2-0 win over Kansas on Friday, the forward from Edmonds, Washington, tallied the game-winning goal — her fourth in a six-game stretch — to give the Tar Heels a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“She took the game over,” Head Coach Anson Dorrance said. “It’s probably the best game she’s played as a Tar Heel.”

Schultz started the second half up top with Andrzejewski and Redei after a stellar first-half performance. Just over seven minutes later, she lofted a left-footed shot over the Jayhawk keeper, off the crossbar and into the back of the net.

“I didn’t hit it as cleanly as I wanted to, and I was quite disappointed with myself,” Schultz said. “And then I saw it bounce back up and hit the upper net, and then I was kind of relieved to see that it went in.”

North Carolina faced a tougher test in its 1-0 win over Clemson on Sunday, turning to a pair of sophomores to help lead the way.

The Tar Heels tied the Tigers earlier in the season, as they struggled to get more than one goal against first-team All-ACC keeper Kailen Sheridan. UNC knew it would need something miraculous to beat the senior Sunday — and it got just that in the 71st minute.

After receiving the ball at the top of the box, sophomore midfielder Dorian Bailey took one dribble and unleashed a rocket to the top-left corner. The ball bounced off the left post and in, giving UNC a 1-0 lead. Bailey admitted the shot was a change of pace from her normal routine.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in that situation where I’m just sitting there at the top of the box, one player to beat, and I think a lot of times I pass it off,” she said. “I don’t take the opportunity. So I just took a touch to the left and hit it and was just hoping for the best.”

With a one-goal lead and 19 minutes left to play, it was up to the Tar Heels’ defense to make sure Clemson couldn’t equalize. And thanks to sophomore defender Julia Ashley, the Tigers didn’t find the goal.

Ashley was the most consistent player on the back line all weekend for UNC. She won 50-50 balls, made key tackles and cleared the ball from danger time and time again. It was the type of aggressive play Dorrance saw from her in practice last week.

“Julia’s practice on Thursday was one of the greatest practices I’ve ever seen a defender have ...” Dorrance said. “She was cleaning everyone out, hammering everyone, clearing balls like 80 yards.”

North Carolina has relied on its underclassmen out of necessity this season after losing so many players from its 2015 squad. But the younger players have proved that they can play well beyond their level of experience — and they will continue to be called on as the Tar Heels work their way toward a 23rd national title.

@jbo_vernon  

sports@dailytarheel.com

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