As Lotte Wubben-Moy took off sprinting down the field at the beginning of the second half, no one, not even her coach, knew her plan.
The junior left her usual post in the back and, in the 52nd minute, fired in the first goal of Sunday's ACC Tournament quarterfinal match to help lift the No. 3 North Carolina women’s soccer team over Notre Dame, in a 3-0 win.
After being trapped in a scoreless stalemate, the Tar Heels did what they do best: come out of the locker room after the half and break through the opponent's defense, this time to advance to Friday's semifinal.
The fans and coaches stood in awe watching Wubben-Moy push forward into the box and score her first career goal in the run of play.
“Sometimes as a center back, when you spot the opportunity, you just take it,” Wubben-Moy said. “I felt it out, and I got higher and higher, and I thought, 'Oh God, here I am, I’m not used to being up this high.'”
The uncharted territory proved to be nothing but a small obstacle for Wubben-Moy, as she sent her shot to the far post just out of reach of Notre Dame's goalie.
The thrill of the goal excited even head coach Anson Dorrance.
“She just did that on her own,” he said. “What I love about her is that she has a mind of her own ,and she’s a wonderful leader. She’s one of my tried captains, and she left her mark. She knew that something had to happen, and she knew that she could make it happen, so I’m very proud of her.”
Wubben-Moy made her second appearance on the score sheet with a penalty kick goal in the 85th minute.
Over the course of its impressive season and into the postseason, UNC has exhibited a ferocity in the latter part of games, breaking ties in the first 10 minutes of the second half against Clemson, N.C. State and Notre Dame.
Something about those first moments out of the locker room after halftime seems to give UNC a heightened vigor in the remaining 45 minutes.
“I wasn’t disappointed in our performance, so it wasn’t an emotional halftime, it was very cerebral,” Dorrance said. “We talked about a couple things, and then, honestly, the team did it on its own.”
Dorrance said a significant part of the success was owed to the reserve unit. He highlighted redshirt senior Ru Mucherera’s goal in the 74th minute and complimented the reserves’ rhythm on the field.
“The reserves are very unselfish, they play one and two touch,” Dorrance said. “I have no issue subbing those kids in, they play a marvelous brand of the game.”
Mucherera touched on halftime as well, and said that Dorrance emphasized both what was working and what needed adjusting.
“We went into halftime and he was like, 'We need to really focus on finishing our chances and organizing our runs in the box a lot better,'” Mucherera said. “Come the second half, I think everyone realized, 'Yeah, we have been dominating the game, but what do we really need to focus on?'"
Looking ahead, Mucherera said the Tar Heels must focus on following through and not overlooking the fundamentals, which will be necessary to excel against N.C. State on Friday.
“They’re an excellent team,” Dorrance said. “We only beat them by one, and we beat them on sort of a wonder strike. They have a very fine team, and I know they’ll be very difficult to break down. But we’re a good team as well, so I’m excited about us."
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