CARY — For the better part of four seasons, Alex Kimball sat and waited her turn.
Her playing time on the North Carolina women’s soccer team came in bursts: 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. From 2014 to 2016, she averaged just over 28 minutes per game. As a redshirt senior in 2018, it was more of the same.
But on Sunday, with No. 3 North Carolina down a star player in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, everything changed.
Kimball scored three minutes into the match for the Tar Heels (16-2-1, 10-0 ACC), who beat Virginia Tech, 2-0, and advanced to the ACC semifinals. In her fifth career start, she set season highs with 66 minutes, seven shots and five shots on goal.
She did all of that at the center forward position, in place of Alessia Russo, a star forward who broke her right leg against Wake Forest three nights earlier.
“She's obviously a huge player to fill in for,” Kimball said of her sophomore teammate. “But I just come in and try to impact the game as much as I can — not so much in ways Alessia did, but in the best ways that I can.”
Those results were evident from the box score. In the 14 games Russo played this season, she was an offensive workhorse. Her six goals, 59 shots and 27 shots on goal were all team highs. On Saturday, Kimball adopted a similar role.
In the first half, she was responsible for three of North Carolina’s five shots on goal. The first came at the 2:20 mark, when a nutmeg pass by Bridgette Andrzejewski quickly turned a scrum into a perfect opportunity for Kimball.