Although that effort was denied by UNCW goalkeeper Sydney Schneider – who saved quite a few for the Seahawks – the Tar Heels eventually started the scoring in the 10th minute on forward Sydney Spruill’s first career goal.
The beneficiary of a crisp, low-to-the-ground service from midfielder Emily Fox on the end line, Spruill received the ball from less than six yards out. The first-year couldn’t have missed the target even if she tried to.
Spruill, who didn’t have the greatest of games against Auburn on Friday according to Dorrance, said notching her first goal was special, especially because of the support she’s received from her teammates.
“It felt great to finally get a goal for them and put us ahead,” Spruill said.
From there, UNC’s prolonged stretch of possession near the UNCW goal continued, but the Tar Heels couldn’t find a second goal for quite some time despite being in full control of the action. Andrzejewski was once again stymied from close range, this time in the 14th minute. Later on, forward Madison Schultz couldn’t quite finish with her head on two different occasions late in the first half.
Eventually, UNC gave itself more breathing room in the 49th minute when Andrzejewski finally found the back of the net, this time with a headed effort from the right side of the 18-yard box after a precise cross by forward Alessia Russo.
“It was a great finish from Bridgette,” said Russo, one of the two new English players for UNC. “I just crossed it back and she did the hard work.”
The Tar Heels were able to see the game out from there on.
Who stood out?
Andrzejewski, the 2016 ACC Freshman of the Year, was UNC’s most dangerous attacking player early on, as she served as a clear target inside the box. Although she couldn’t convert either of her early chances, her persistence eventually paid off when she provided her team with an insurance goal just a few minutes out of halftime.
Out on the wings, UNC enjoyed productive performances from multiple players. Fox, one of several first-years to stand out for the Tar Heels on Sunday, earned the assist on UNC’s opening goal because of her efforts out on the right flank. Her game certainly had a creative element to it.
“This rarely happens, but at the half, the Wilmington coach (Paul Cairney) approached me, and said, ‘Who’s that right midfielder you’ve got?” Dorrance said. “I said, ‘That’s Emily Fox,’ and he said, ‘That’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen.’”
Additionally, forward Alea Hyatt and defender Julia Ashley also played in good balls from out wide, both of which were nearly turned into goals by Schultz.
Why does it matter?
After giving up five goals in its opening three games, it was vital for UNC to gel defensively and string together a continued stretch of good play without the ball over the weekend.
That started with the Tar Heels’ 5-0 victory against Auburn, and it continued on Sunday. Against the Seahawks, UNC dominated the possession battle, and its back line encountered few moments of concern – UNCW didn’t record a shot until the 51st minute – but looked poised when it did have something to deal with.
Whether or not that remains the case as the level of competition increases soon remains to be seen.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels travel to face No. 4 Penn State on Thursday. UNC defeated the Nittany Lions in the 2012 NCAA Championship, its most recent national title.
After that, UNC stays on the road, and plays No. 15 Florida State to open up ACC play on Sep. 17.