CARY — Alessia Russo stepped up to the ball that sat 26 yards away from the goal, waiting for the referee’s signal. The sophomore forward stared down the four-woman wall of Louisville players that stood in front of her and took a few steps back.
A shrill whistle echoed throughout Koka Booth Stadium.
Russo took three steps before banging the ball over the wall and past the Cardinals’ goalkeeper, tying the game at 1-1. As she lined up for the shot, her thought process was simple.
“To be honest, I just hit it as hard as I could,” Russo said.
No. 3 North Carolina women’s soccer (9-2-1, 4-0 ACC) stands as the only undefeated team in ACC play after a 5-1 victory over Louisville (9-2, 3-1 ACC). Saturday's midday game was the highest scoring game for the Tar Heels since Sept. 30, 2017, when UNC had a 7-0 victory over Syracuse at WakeMed Soccer Park.
“What excited me the most today was the way the starting unit played because we scored some goals early,” head coach Anson Dorrance said. “And that’s been an Achilles heel for us because we’ve done a good job defending.”
The Cardinals had an early edge over UNC, scoring the first goal five minutes into the game, only four minutes after Russo’s first shot attempt hit the crossbar. Once Louisville’s Emina Ekic broke away from the defense, she made a mad sprint through the box and scored. The Cardinals had a total of eight shots on Saturday, three of which were on goal, but they never found the back of the net again.
However, UNC’s story was different. Once Louisville scored first, a sense of controlled urgency took over the Tar Heels as their intensity grew. The tempo picked up, and it was as if a switch was flipped.
“Despite the fact of going down a goal, I’m looking at the team and watching the way they’re playing, and thinking, ‘we’re doing OK,’” Dorrance said. “I was pretty confident that we’d have a chance to come back.”