Midway through the first half against Wake Forest on Thursday, the North Carolina women's soccer team was locked in a tight battle.
That was when UNC head coach Anson Dorrance decided he needed to make a change.
In the 28th minute, he subbed in six new players — including redshirt senior Ru Mucherera, who proved to be the difference maker in an eventual 4-0 win.
In the 36th minute, Mucherera got credit for an assist on the first goal of the match. She fed the ball to junior Lois Joel, who delivered a long cross into the box to an open Zoe Redei. The senior headed the ball high into the air and past the goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Mucherera kicked in a goal of her own. After making a strong run just outside of the box, the forward collected an airborne ball using her chest. She brought the ball down to her weak foot and then blasted it into the back of the net.
Mucherera knows her role on the team is to bring a passion to every match, one that helped the Tar Heels secure their victory against the Demon Deacons.
“It’s senior year — I’m just literally like, ‘Give it your all,’” Mucherera said. “I come off the field, and I’m wheezing, but at least I’m on the field, and I did my job. I did what (Dorrance) told me to do. I’m also working for my teammates; it’s not just me.”
Dorrance, for his part, was impressed with Muchera’s outing.
“I’m really pleased with Ru’s performance,” he said. “...This is probably the best she’s played so far this season. I thought her goal in the first half was absolutely majestic.”
The Hall of Fame coach also acknowledged her passion, then joked that she sometimes takes it to the extreme.
“She’s just a wonderful kid that plays with huge passion,” Dorrance said. "In fact, sometimes reckless passion, where she picks up yellow cards. We’re always so afraid in practice she’s gonna take out one of my stars."
Junior forward Alessia Russo, who added two late goals of her own, spoke to Mucherera's drive.
“She practices how she plays, so I think that’s important, and it sets a standard," Russo said. "And you can see it on the field on game day."
It was Dorrance’s decision to trust his bench players, including Mucherera, that defined the match. The Tar Heels were able to produce two goals before halftime. The goals and assists in both of these scores were solely credited to bench players.
“I think that’s one of the most important parts of our team this year, especially,” Russo said. “We have so much depth. We can throw anyone out there, and they are going to do their job.”
That depth will be one of the largest determinants in whether the Tar Heels can reach back-to-back national championships. This time, it was Mucherera who fueled the UNC victory. According to Russo, someone on that bench will always be expected to produce that same fire.
“They bring the energy every game,” Russo said. “It’s no different today.”
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