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.”