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Wednesday February 8th

In title game rematch, Mucherera's goal lifts UNC women's soccer over FSU

<p>First-year forward Isabel Cox (13) attempts a shot against Florida State on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 at Karen Shelton Stadium.</p>
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First-year forward Isabel Cox (13) attempts a shot against Florida State on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 at Karen Shelton Stadium.

For the No. 3 North Carolina women’s soccer team, Thursday night’s rivalry showdown vs. No. 5 Florida State felt eerily familiar — until the 76th minute, when a go-ahead goal propelled the Tar Heels to a 2-0 victory at Dorrance Field. 

In the high stakes rematch of the 2018 NCAA Championship, the Tar Heels and the Seminoles found themselves locked in a scoreless test of wills for much of the game. 

UNC dominated the ball offensively, but just as they did in last year’s season finale, the Seminoles narrowly avoided any Tar Heel goals. It felt as if it was only a matter of time until Florida State caught a big break, allowing them to walk away with another 1-0 victory.

That was the score in last year's title game, with FSU scoring the game’s deciding goal in the 59th minute.

“We really just lost that game,” redshirt senior Ru Mucherera said. “It was in our hands, and we let it slip.”

As if residual effects from such a loss weren’t enough, then two tantalizingly close first-half attempts that ricocheted off the goal post seemed to indicate that perhaps Florida State held some intangible leg up over UNC.

That is, until Macherera dispelled any such notion.

In the 76th minute, the redshirt senior exploded down the left side of the field to meet an incisive pass from junior defender Lotte Wubben-Moy. Gallivanting past the slower defender, she quickly found herself one-on-one with the goalie.

The crowd held its breath to see if Mucherera would avenge UNC’s painful loss, or if Florida State would receive yet another fortuitous bounce. 

She buried the shot in the bottom right corner, sending Dorrance Field into a frenzy.

This electrifying goal seemed to inspire the rest of her team, and seven minutes later midfielder Brianna Pinto scored a nearly identical goal to all but seal the win. Her breakaway from the defense presented her with a similar one on one with the keeper, and the standout sophomore followed her senior’s lead and placed the ball bottom right.

With first place in the ACC and a game against a rival on the line, UNC responded just how head coach Anson Dorrance hoped they would. 

“We checked all the boxes today,” Dorrance said. “I was incredibly happy with all aspects of our game today.”

Dorrance did not shy away from the fact that last year’s defeat added another layer of emotion to this regular season matchup.

“Everyone can sort of pretend like this is just another game, but it’s just stupid to say those things publicly,” Dorrance said. “Of course this is not another game. Of course (Florida State) won the ACC Championship, and the national championship. Of course we are looking back to those games. Of course that was our discussion before the game. Of course, of course, of course!”

Even Pinto, who emphasized that this regular season victory “doesn’t mean anything” in the grand scheme of things, acknowledged that defeating the Seminoles did mean a little bit more to her. 

“Florida State is always a big rival,” she said. “We are defending our dignity and it hurt last year to lose to them twice.”

@fleetwilson

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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