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Monday December 5th

Pinto scores two as UNC women's soccer beats Indiana in first game at new stadium

Midfielder (8) Brianna Pinto drives down the field during Thursday's game against Boston College.
Buy Photos Midfielder (8) Brianna Pinto drives down the field during Thursday's game against Boston College.

Brianna Pinto gathered the ball that rolled to her just outside the penalty box, dribbled past one Indiana player and drew two more. 

It didn’t matter. The 5-foot-5 sophomore midfielder’s mind was already made up. 

The result was the No. 2 North Carolina women’s soccer team’s third goal of the night, in the 81st minute of a 3-0 season-opening win against Indiana, the team’s first-ever victory in the new UNC Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium.

“I saw an opportunity to shoot it,” Pinto said. “My responsibility at the top of the box is to redirect it onto the goal. Luckily, I was able to take my first touch into space and then have a shot with my left foot.”

Pinto’s late-game score was also her second of the match.

In the 18th minute, first-year midfielder Aleigh Gambone corralled a free-kick deflection from the Hoosier goalkeeper, fought off another Indiana player for possession and passed it to Pinto, who tapped it in with her right foot from six yards out.

After tallying six goals last season as a first-year, the Durham native notched one-third of her 2018 scoring total in the first match of 2019. 

“The ceiling is unlimited for her,” head coach Anson Dorrance said. “If she keeps investing in her game, the sky’s the limit ... I think she’s got an absolutely unlimited future.” 

Before Pinto took over, senior forward Bridgette Andrzejewski opened up the scoring for UNC. Early in the first half, redshirt junior midfielder Taylor Otto collected the ball from a corner kick by Pinto, then found Andrzejewski in the goalkeeper’s box. 

The 5-foot-8 striker drilled the ball into the back of the net for the team's first goal in the new stadium. 

“I got chills after I scored,” Andrzejewski said. “... Just being in this atmosphere really pushes us a lot more. And just having my teammates, the coaches, the fans, it can’t get better than that.”

Last season, the Tar Heels had to play their early-season home games off campus at Finley Fields South, and later, take the bus to host opponents at Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park. 

So, playing in their new home in the heart of campus was extra special.

“It’s incredible,” Pinto said. “To see the old Fetzer (Field) and now open up the new stadium, it was well worth the wait. We’re incredibly blessed to have the facilities and the people that keep the field so nice. We just hope to live up to the standard and continue to win games.”

A lightning delay that lasted almost two hours sent several fans home before the match started, but a crowd of 1,481 still stuck around. Many alumni were also in attendance to see the Tar Heels play on their new pitch.

Dorrance said former players were in awe at the upgrade from the old Fetzer Field, the program’s home from 1979 to 2016.

“This is unbelievable,” Dorrance said. “... And the alumni can’t believe it. They are looking around, and they are as shocked as I am about the standard of what’s going on now with this new stadium and the quality of this surface.”

After Pinto scored the second goal of her brace, she jumped up in jubilation and ran, not to her teammates, but to the student section. She had to make sure she showed her appreciation. 

The Tar Heels were just happy to be home.

“I was running to the fans, because we’re honestly so thankful they stuck around, even after the delays,” Pinto said. “Their support is contagious, we can feel it on the field. I’m really grateful for that, and obviously, I couldn’t do that without my team.”

@pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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