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A homecoming in Cary: two UNC women's soccer redshirts reunite in 2-1 win over Duke

Jessie Scarpa and Joanna Boyles return after missing 2016 season.

Jessie Scarpa against Duke

Jessie Scarpa (12) defends the ball against Duke players on Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

CARY — Three minutes into the golden goal overtime of the first game of the 2017 season, the No. 6 North Carolina women’s soccer team packed seven players into No. 12 Duke’s 18-yard box. UNC's best free kick-taker stood at the corner flag and one of its best finishers set up near the far post.   

Redshirt senior Joanna Boyles already played several impressive free kicks in for the Tar Heels, including her equalizing goal in the first half.   

But she was “irritated” with this one — the first real scoring opportunity of the overtime for either team. When she sent it into the sea of dark blue and white, it was rejected by the Blue Devil defense back out wide toward where the ball came from. 

The ball rolled unpossessed for a few seconds before Tar Heel teammate Dorian Bailey out-extended anyone else in pursuit of it and knocked it back to Boyles for another try.   

This time, it was golden. 

Redshirt junior Jessie Scarpa jumped up and headed Boyles’ second cross into the net. The Tar Heel bench cleared, ran to and gathered around the game’s final goal-scorer in celebration of its 2-1 opening day win.   

“It’s awesome; I love playing with her,” Scarpa said of Boyles. “I know she’s always going to look over top and try to find me behind the back line. Her set pieces are incredible. Every time she steps on the ball, I expect it go in.”

Scarpa and Boyles, North Carolina’s two most valuable players on Friday, reunited for the first time in Tar Heel blue since 2015. Last season, Scarpa took a redshirt year to play on the U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team. The season before that, right before the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Boyles went down with her first of two ACL tears that effectively began her 21-month period of being tied to the sideline.   

“Well, what I love is, this is two ACL tears back-to-back,” Head Coach Anson Dorrance said. “And then for (Boyles) to not just come back, but to come back actually at a better level than before she was hurt — this is her achievement.”   

Come kickoff, the two Tar Heels who didn’t compete all of the 2016 season played like they never left.

“I was lucky enough to get on the field in the spring, so I was able to get all those ... injury kind of emotions out of the way,” Boyles said. “So then I could really be fresh for the season and kind of be locked in on the season and have all that emotion in the past.”   

And with the program coasting into unfamiliar waters — especially considering the fact that its home games will be played at the WakeMed Soccer Park while construction continues at Fetzer Field — the ship proved steady in its first test. 

“I’ve played on this field from the time that I was nine,” said Boyles, a Raleigh native. “So it’s kind of, for me, a personal coming home.”   

For Scarpa and Boyles, Friday was a homecoming in more ways than one.

@alexzietlow05

sports@dailytarheel.com

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