Seconds after UNC gave up its first goal of the season on Dorrance Field, Maycee Bell could only hear one voice.
Earlier in the match, a 17th minute strike from Southern California sophomore forward Penelope Hocking was the first goal of Friday’s NCAA Tournament quarterfinal game. For just the third time this season, the Tar Heels were behind in the opening half.
Bell stood momentarily frozen, until the first-year defender heard teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy.
“There were a few swear words, I’m not gonna lie. So you might have to bleep those out,” Wubben-Moy said. “I was telling the girls we knew it was coming. We deserved it, and we wanted it more it than them.”
The junior defender’s words provided Bell with reassurance in an unfamiliar situation. She and her teammates needed every bit of it en route to a 3-2 win over USC that punched the program’s ticket to its 29th College Cup.
Even after the Tar Heels fell behind early, head coach Anson Dorrance didn’t feel compelled to say anything, much less adjust his strategy. Instead, he put his trust in veterans like Wubben-Moy.
“It’s not really anything that we’re saying from the sidelines,” he said. “What it is, is the game-changers were changing the game.”
USC struck first but didn’t keep its lead for long. In the 39th minute, UNC junior defender Emily Fox zipped through a trio of Trojan defenders to drill the equalizer into the bottom right corner of the net.
But unlike in its previous matches, the Tar Heels couldn’t seize the momentum.
The two teams traded goals in the early portion of the second half. UNC sophomore midfielder Brianna Pinto knocked in a header on an assist from senior forward Bridgette Andrzejewski in the 55th minute. Then, seven minutes later, USC responded when redshirt senior forward Natalie Jacobs found the back of the net.
In the final 30 minutes of the contest, neither the Tar Heels nor the Trojans could gain an edge. That’s when UNC needed another boost of confidence from Wubben-Moy.
Before lining up for a free kick in the 69th minute, Wubben-Moy locked eyes with Bell. The few seconds of eye contact were all that was necessary for the two to be on the same page.
As the ball was in the air, Bell ran from the top of the penalty box toward the goal, gaining just enough separation from her defender to lunge forward and tap in a header well out of reach of the Trojan goalkeeper.
“(Bell is) great in the air. Her ability to get up is one I’ve seen like no other,” Wubben-Moy said. “But, honestly, we’ve kinda got this chemistry. We can see it in the game, but we can also see it in set pieces. I think that’s a real weapon for us.”
From the moment USC scored the match’s opening goal, Wubben-Moy helped Bell keep her poise. And it paid off late in the contest when Bell drilled the game-sealing header.
Though encouragement from her older teammate certainly helped, Bell said her belief in her team never wavered.
“I just have complete confidence in our team, and I know that we can come back from anything,” she said.
That’s the mindset that will allow the Tar Heels to continue their revenge tour in San Jose, California, against Washington State next Friday in the semifinal. It’s one that Wubben-Moy definitely shares.
“I wasn’t scared for one minute,” Wubben-Moy said. “I believe in this team, and if I can voice that on the field and get everyone calm, then that’s what I’ll do.”
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