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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 3 UNC women's soccer marches past Clemson onto ACC Championship game

Bridgette Andrzejewski

UNC sophomore forward Alessia Russo (19) dribbles the ball during the team's 3-0 win over Pittsburgh at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sept. 20.

The No. 3 North Carolina women’s soccer team (17-2-1, 10-0 ACC) defeated No. 23 Clemson (12-8, 6-4 ACC) in the ACC Tournament semifinal on Friday. The Tar Heels' 1-0 win bolstered a perfect conference record on the season and cemented their spot in Sunday's ACC Championship game.

What happened?

The Tar Heel attack controlled the ball for the majority of the first half, which led to a fair number of opportunities that the team couldn't capitalize on. 

Still, a strong defensive effort and a decisive control of the ball kept Clemson scoreless as well, and the game was all tied up at halftime.

Junior forward Bridgette Andrzejewski nearly converted in the ninth minute with a glancing header off of a set piece, but the shot was high. She followed up with another shot off the crossbar two minutes later, and the ensuing rebound was missed wide of the left post.

All told, North Carolina held an 8-1 advantage in shots at the half, and earned seven corner kicks to Clemson’s zero. 

One had the feeling that the teams were feeling each other out in the first half — Clemson played conservative defensively, dropping ample defenders in the box, while UNC was content to control the ball and look for occasional openings.

The beginning stages of the second half were similarly pensive for both teams, with limited scoring opportunities available. 

A 65th minute goal from first-year Rachael Dorwart inched the Tar Heels ahead, where they wouldn’t look back. Dorwart’s shot was deflected and rolled in to find the back of the net, giving North Carolina some much-needed breathing room.

That lead was nearly taken away promptly by Clemson midfielder Kimber Haley, who had a searing shot from outside of the box bounce off the crossbar in the 70th minute.

After the UNC score, Clemson began to get more opportunities and was noticeably more aggressive, creating a few chances to knot the game up at a goal apiece. The Tar Heel defense held strong, however, and they cemented a spot in another ACC Championship.

Who stood out?

Andrzejewski created a number of scoring opportunities in the first half, with a couple of near misses that would have put North Carolina ahead early. 

As for Dorwart, her game-deciding goal was just her second of the year, with her first coming against Illinois in August 16th — the season opener for the Tar Heels. Head coach Anson Dorrance and the Tar Heel faithful were undoubtedly happy with Dorwart’s timing.

When was it decided?

With Clemson threatening until the end, this one truly wasn’t over until the final horn sounded. After the 65th minute score, every pass from both teams was marked with an added sense of urgency; for Clemson, to net a tying goal, and for the Tar Heels, to hold strong until the end.

Why does it matter?

The win was yet another signifier of North Carolina’s unparalleled depth. 

Sophomore forward Alessia Russo, UNC’s leading scorer, went down with a broken leg in a win last week against Wake Forest. 

While this would be insurmountable for other teams, the Tar Heels have so far taken a goals-by-committee approach to replace Russo’s production, which has proven to be a worthy alternative when coupled with UNC’s stellar back line.

Aside from playing for the honor of postseason conference champion, a UNC win in the ACC Championship would complete an undefeated conference run on the season and put the Tar Heels in a great position for another run at an NCAA title.

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When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will look to capture their record 21st ACC Tournament Championship on Sunday, when they will play the winner of Florida State and Virginia.


@DTHSports |