Isabel Cox collected a pass from Lois Joel near the left corner of the penalty box and split two defenders as she dribbled right. She released a right-footed strike that caught the opposing goalkeeper flat-footed before hitting the back of the net.
The first-year forward’s goal in the 52nd minute was the only one of Thursday night’s match, a 1-0 win for the No. 4 North Carolina women’s soccer team over rival N.C. State in Chapel Hill.
In the sequence that led to the game-winner, Cox first found Joel, who kicked the ball back to Cox to execute the give-and-go.
When Cox scored her third goal of the season, Joel — a junior defender and transfer from West Virginia — earned her sixth assist of the year, a team best.
“Good players around you make you look good,” Joel said. “So, it’s just a really nice relationship — give them the ball, and they do their thing.”
There’s no doubt that Cox is one of those players. She’s now tied for second on the team in goals with senior forward Bridgette Andrzejewski and fellow first-year forward Alexis Strickland.
But head coach Anson Dorrance admits he’s been shocked by Cox’s play through the Tar Heels’ first 10 games.
“She’s a lot better than I thought,” he said. “When we recruited her, we knew she was going to contribute. But if someone had said three months ago, ‘This kid’s going to start for you at the nine,’ I would’ve said, ‘No way.’”
Cox’s first two goals came in blowout wins: a 4-0 win over Portland on Sept. 1 and a 8-0 rout of UNLV on Sept. 8.