With the score knotted at zero near the end of the first half, the No. 3 North Carolina women’s soccer team needed a spark to get a win on the team's Senior Day.
It was only fitting that it would be senior Zoe Redei who scored the game-winning goal on Sunday, helping UNC to a 2-0 victory over No. 25 Virginia Tech.
“It’s emotional because it’s one of our last games and it’s our last season, so this really meant a lot,” Redei said.
It wasn't the first time Redei scored a huge goal when being called upon — her goal against the Hokies was her sixth game-winning goal in her four years as a Tar Heel — but that hasn't been her only role in a long career with North Carolina.
Like fellow seniors Bridgette Andrzejewski and Madison Schultz, Redei started several games for UNC as a first-year. She made an immediate impact on the program, scoring three goals and adding an assist in her first season.
But after starting over half the games she played in as a sophomore, her role slowly decreased.
“The seniors have been eclipsed by excellent recruiting since they came to school, because all those kids were starters as freshmen,” head coach Anson Dorrance said.
As the new crop of talent arrived, Redei was eventually moved to a role coming off the bench.
Injuries were also a factor. She missed several games during her sophomore and junior seasons, allowing other players to get her playing time.
Despite remaining a substitute, Redei has appeared in 14 of the team's 17 games this season. Her experience continues to provide value to a team with many younger starters.
Despite a reduced role, Redei has made the most of her opportunities. Some of the forward's most impactful plays have been during the team's biggest moments.
Senior Day was no exception.
Redei made a penetrating run ahead and settled a long pass in the air from first-year Julia Dorsey. After fighting off one defender, Redei found herself with a few feet of separation from a second Hokie.
The forward took a touch into open space at the top of the box and blasted the ball into bottom of the crossbar before it reached the back of the net.
As Redei's teammates rushed over to embrace the senior, it was clear from the smile on her face how much joy the moment brought her.
"They're all my sisters, so it meant a lot to be able to contribute," Redei said.
It was only her second goal of the season. But, just like the first — a header in the 34th minute of a 4-0 win against Wake Forest that jumpstarted the offense into scoring three more goals — it came when her team needed it most.
Sunday's win also sealed the program’s 23rd ACC regular season title in 33 years of league play.
“We always tell her she only scores big goals, and today we really needed that,” redshirt senior Taylor Otto said.
Reflecting on her four years, Redei expressed her appreciation for her teammates and the culture Dorrance helped institute.
“I chose this program because the girls are family and everyone here is so welcoming," she said. "They’re all my sisters."
As Redei and the five others seniors said goodbye after their final regular season game in Chapel Hill, Dorrance was proud that they were able to put together great performances on a day dedicated to them.
“What I love is seeing them all on the field, seeing them all with smiles on their faces," Dorrance said. "Because these are wonderful kids and they represent us well.
"I couldn’t be happier for them.”
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