Another box was checked off in the North Carolina women’s soccer team’s redemption tour when it beat Virginia, 2-1, in double overtime Sunday in the ACC Women’s Soccer Championship Final.
Junior forward Alessia Russo — who was named the tournament’s MVP — drilled the game-winner in the second minute of the second overtime, giving the Tar Heels their 22nd ACC Championship.
After falling short of the conference title last season to Florida State, the No. 3 Tar Heels (19-1-1, 9-0-1 ACC) asserted themselves from the start of the match to slide past the No. 1 Cavaliers (16-1-3, 6-1-3 ACC).
UNC was the aggressor early on, forcing a corner kick early in the fourth minute that ended with a shot by sophomore midfielder Brianna Pinto sailing high over the crossbar. Just a minute later, Russo would collect the ball at midfield, beat her defender, and send a strike directly at Cavaliers goalie Laurel Ivory, who was forced to block the ball high out of bounds.
On the ensuing corner kick, junior defender Lotte Wubben-Moy sent a perfectly placed ball to the middle of the box, where first-year defender and reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Maycee Bell headed it in for UNC's first goal.
North Carolina continued to control the ball for most of the first half, not allowing Virginia to register its first shot until the 22nd minute, when senior forward Meghan McCool's shot was saved by a diving Claudia Dickey.
At halftime, the Tar Heels had outshot the Cavaliers 7-2, and had more shots on goal at 3-1.
The game started to get chippy around the 60th minute in the second half, when Virginia's Phoebe McClernon was called for a foul and charged a yellow card. About a minute later, another foul was called that eventually led to a corner kick for UNC. However, the Tar Heels couldn’t capitalize with a second goal.
In the 68th minute, the Cavaliers — who had been dominated offensively all match — struck. UVA first-year forward Diana Ordonez gathered a deflected ball from a free kick to drill the equalizer.
Two more attempts by the Tar Heels in regulation came from corner kicks but were fruitless. The contest went into overtime — and then a second overtime, where the next goal would win the match.
That’s when Russo broke free and had a one-on-one matchup with UVA sophomore goalkeeper Michaela Moran. The Kent, England, native found the back of the net and her teammates swarmed her in jubilation.
Who stood out?
Russo was aggressive from the opening minute but didn’t have much luck early on. Russo, who came into Sunday’s championship leading the tournament in points with four, took a shot in the sixth minute, but UVA’s Ivory stretched out vertically to grab the ball. She shot two more times in regulation without finding the back of the net.
But in the second overtime, it was Russo who sprinted ahead of several Cavalier defenders on her way to kicking the ACC Championship-winning goal.
First-year defender Bell opened up the scoring for UNC in the sixth minute of the match. The 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year headed a ball just past the right shoulder of UVA junior goalkeeper Laurel Ivory.
When was it decided?
Though the Tar Heels appeared to be in control for most of the contest, the match wasn’t decided until the second overtime. In the 102nd minute of the game, Russo broke free and was one-on-one with the Cavaliers’ Moran when she drilled the game-winner.
Why does it matter?
The victory gave North Carolina its 22nd ACC Championship and its first since 2017. The Tar Heels also toppled the No. 1 team in the country, right before heading into the NCAA Tournament.
When do they play next?
The selection show for the NCAA Tournament is Monday at 4:30 p.m. The Tar Heels will find out then who their opponent will be and where they'll be playing during the first round on November 16.
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