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Wednesday February 8th

Analysis: UNC women's soccer looks to repeat as ACC champions

<p>Sophomore midfielder Brianna Pinto (8) attempts a shot in the game against Duke in Koskinen Stadium on Thursday, Oct.10, 2019.&nbsp;</p>
Buy Photos Sophomore midfielder Brianna Pinto (8) attempts a shot in the game against Duke in Koskinen Stadium on Thursday, Oct.10, 2019. UNC's women's soccer team will kick off their 2020 season with a game against Wake Forest University on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

After searching for redemption in the 2019 NCAA Championship following their loss in the championship game the year before, the North Carolina women’s soccer team was once again met with heartbreak. 

The Tar Heels fell to Stanford last year in a crushingly close penalty shootout — Stanford had five conversions to UNC’s four — after both teams failed to score in the two previous overtimes. Still, the Tar Heels had an impressive record for the season despite the lack of a national title.

The 2019 ACC champions had an official mark of 24-2-1 under head coach Anson Dorrance.  Their marquee season wins included an impressive final score of 2-0 over No. 5 Florida State and a double overtime thriller victory against a top-ranked Virginia, 2-1, with Alessia Russo’s game-winning goal coming 1:48 into the second overtime period.  

Now, as the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll favorite to win the 2020 conference title, North Carolina is back and ready to play. The Tar Heels came in at No. 1 with eight first-place votes and 129 votes overall, the next closest team being the Seminoles with three first-place votes and 123 votes overall.

Due to precautions and circumstances regarding COVID-19, the ACC has abbreviated all conference schools' schedules to include just eight conference games, with the option of scheduling more games to count outside of conference standings. The Tar Heels will play the eight ACC-mandated games and has opted to remain in the conference for two additional games against Virginia and Duke, although they will not count to their ACC record. 

North Carolina will kick off its shortened season with two straight home games against Wake Forest on Sept. 17 and against Virginia Tech three days later on Sept. 20. The Tar Heels will then travel to Durham for a Sept. 27 game against Duke.

In the next home match, UNC will face Clemson on Oct. 1, and likely face their toughest match of the season versus Virginia on Oct. 8, with the Cavaliers drawing two first-place votes and 113 overall to place third in the ACC Preseason Coach’s Poll.

Here's the rest of the Tar Heels' schedule:

  • At Syracuse on Oct. 15.
  • At Boston College on Oct. 18.
  • Vs. Duke on Oct. 23.
  • At Louisville on Oct. 29.
  • Vs. Notre Dame on Nov. 1.

With the official release of North Carolina’s 2020 schedule — after multiple setbacks due to COVID-19 — there is a new wave of excitement for this hungry and talented team. And these Tar Heels are up to the task with three players selected to the Preseason All-ACC team — even though British stars Alessia Russo, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Lois Joel opted out of the season.

Senior midfielder Emily Fox enters 2020 coming off of a season in which she was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate soccer players. As expected, Fox was named to the Preseason All-ACC team following a first-team All-ACC selection last year.

Brianna Pinto will enter her junior season as a Preseason All-ACC selection, and she is an offensive powerhouse for UNC after placing second in points for the Tar Heels last year. A Hermann Trophy semifinalist as well, Pinto comes off of a 2019 season with 27 starts, 11 goals and six assists.

Maycee Bell will continue to play a key role in UNC’s defense as a sophomore and was also selected for the Preseason All-ACC team. As the 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year, Bell is a force on the field, logging 2,161 minutes last season even after not playing in two full games.

With the NCAA's decision to cancel all fall sports championships, avenging back-to-back national title losses is out of the question, but the Tar Heels will look to continue their dominance in ACC play.


@DTHSports | 

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