The No. 3 UNC women’s soccer team (15-2-1, 10-0 ACC) concluded its regular season schedule with a 1-0 Senior Night victory over Wake Forest (8-8-1, 4-6) at WakeMed Soccer Park on Thursday.
The first half was a frustrating one for the Tar Heels — with only two shots through the first 20 minutes.
Despite the lack of shots, UNC looked the more threatening side in the early stages, and were the first to record a shot. In the 15th minute, senior midfielder Dorian Bailey had two tantalizing chances. The first came on a shot inside a crowded 18-yard box that was blocked.
The second came moments later on a through ball up the middle of the field. While she caught up with it, the play was called back for offsides.
Except for a of couple brief spells of possession in the North Carolina defensive third, Wake Forest remained on the defensive for the majority of the first half. The Demon Deacons did not register their first shot until the waning moments of the opening period, an ambitious effort by Mariah Lee that sailed straight into UNC goalkeeper Samantha Leshnak’s gloves.
The Demon Deacons were able to bend not break, however, in large part due to the play of senior goalkeeper Nonie Frishette. Frishette had three saves in the first 45 minutes, with none bigger coming one-on-one in the box with UNC’s leading scorer Alessia Russo to help ensure a scoreless first half.
The second half got off to a scary start for the Tar Heels. Russo went down in a heap after colliding with Frishette as they vied for a ball in the middle of the penalty area. She stayed down for multiple minutes and was eventually helped off the field by trainers in the 51st minute without putting any weight on her right leg.
The match momentum returned to North Carolina in a major way deep in the half.
The Tar Heels finally broke the deadlock with a goal in the 74th minute. Defender Julia Ashley lofted a ball from outside of the box on the right side. Junior forward Madison Schultz struck the ball with a beautiful header that lofted over the helpless Frishette, giving UNC a 1-0 lead.
As the the clock continued to tick, Carolina continued to press. Another quality opportunity came in the 85th minute as Sydney Spruill brought a ball down with her chest and took a one time shot that rocketed over the crossbar.
With their season potentially on the line, Wake Forest continued battle back, winning a corner kick in the 87th minute. It lead to a shot by Estelle Laurier, but it sailed harmlessly to the left.
UNC regained and maintained possession for most of the final minutes, and were able to milk out the clock out, hanging on for a 1-0 victory.
Who stood out?
Madison Schultz stood out throughout the match, often finding herself in the middle of offensive build ups and eventually scoring the game-winning goal.
Before her injury early in the second half Russo was also putting forth a strong effort, launching three shots and forcing Frishette into a very difficult save.
When was it decided?
The match was decided on Schultz’s 74th minute highlight reel goal assisted by Ashley.
Why does it matter?
Having already clinched the ACC Regular Season title on Sunday, this match against Wake Forest served as a final tune up squad for a Tar Heel poised to make a deep postseason run. The win also means UNC was victorious in every regular season ACC match (10) — the most the team has won in a season in program history.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels next match will be in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sunday October 28 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
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