Just a day after the North Carolina women's soccer team won its 22nd ACC Championship, the seeding for the NCAA Tournament is out.
UNC, awarded one of the four No. 1 seeds, will face Belmont in the first round of the tournament. The Bruins went 8-8-5 and 4-4-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont won the OVC Championship this year against SIU Edwardsville in penalty kicks.
The Tar Heels have not yet faced any of the teams in their bracket this season, but matched up with several in 2018. North Carolina tied Texas 1-1, who is matched up with Texas A&M in the first round, and lost to Santa Clara 0-1, who is now matched up against California.
UNC has experience with the other No. 1 seeds in the tournament: Florida State, Virginia and Stanford.
In 2018, UNC faced Florida State a total of three times, once in the regular season and then in the ACC and NCAA Championship games, and lost both times in the postseason. This year, the Tar Heels got their revenge, downing the Seminoles 2-0 in a regular season match in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina hasn't matched up against Stanford since last year, when the Cardinals defeated UNC 2-1 in one of only two regular season losses for the Tar Heels in 2018.
UNC will enter the tournament with one of the best defenses in the country. The Tar Heels recorded 16 shutouts in 2019, the most in the country, and allowed just eight goals to be scored in 20 games. That figure is good for second in the nation in shutout percentage at .762.
The team is also ranked eighth in scoring offense, with 54 goals on the season and an average of 2.57 per game. The Tar Heels spread the wealth and have plenty of weapons — no player is ranked in the top 50 nationally in total goals and only one, sophomore midfielder Brianna Pinto, is in the top 100 with 10 goals.
Russo, the Tar Heels second-leading goal scorer, went through a dry spell in the entire month of October before ripping two in the ACC semifinals against N.C. State, then the game-winner against Virginia.
Going into the tournament, 13 different players have scored for North Carolina this season, and six have registered four or more goals. The equal-opportunity offense leaves UNC ranked ninth in total assists with 49, averaging 2.33 per game.
If the Tar Heels were to make it back to the College Cup, the soccer equivalent of the Final Four, it would be their second year in a row, after making it all the way to the championship game before falling to Florida State.
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