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Tuesday January 25th

Despite the score, UNC women's soccer's 1-0 win over Virginia Tech was a blowout

<p>Members of UNC's women's soccer team celebrate their first goal, scored by junior midfielder Brianna Pinto (8), during the first round of the ACC tournament against Virginia Tech on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 at WakeMed Soccer Park. UNC beat Virginia Tech 1-0, with Pinto's goal being the only of the night.&nbsp;</p>
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Members of UNC's women's soccer team celebrate their first goal, scored by junior midfielder Brianna Pinto (8), during the first round of the ACC tournament against Virginia Tech on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 at WakeMed Soccer Park. UNC beat Virginia Tech 1-0, with Pinto's goal being the only of the night. 

CARY, N.C. — UNC 1, Virginia Tech 0.

Sometimes, a scoreline like that can define the game: a close match, where one moment of inspiration was the difference-maker. 

After all, it was the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, where anything can happen. Though the undefeated No. 2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels women’s soccer team (10-0, 8-0 ACC) looked poised to make a deep run, the No. 7 seed Virginia Tech Hokies (5-8, 4-4 ACC) won their last two conference matches in a row to earn their place at WakeMed Soccer Park. Maybe the Hokies took the fight to the Tar Heels and only went down after a hard-fought 90 minutes, with UNC scrapping and clawing for the goal it needed.

But with a quick glance at the stat sheet, the extent of UNC’s victory on Tuesday becomes clear. 17 shots. 15 corner kicks. Seven different players attempting shots. Two saves and a clean sheet from junior keeper Claudia Dickey and the back line. The Hokies, meanwhile?

Three shots in the whole match. Not a single shot in the second half. A goal conceded, which might have been more had junior midfielder Brianna Pinto’s second headed goal not been disallowed by the referee.

Simply put, it was a blowout in all but name.

“I’m kind of upset about it, but it is what it is,” Pinto said of the referee’s decision to disallow her goal. “Maybe another time. But given the result, that’s all I care about, so it’s all right.”

Pinto was the lynchpin behind UNC’s attacking dominance. She scored the only goal of the match, after a cross from senior defender Emily Fox gave her the perfect opportunity to head the ball into the bottom-left corner of the goal. Though her second strike was disallowed, she continued to play a vital role, leading the team with four shots and winning the ball back in critical areas of midfield.

“I want to make sure I’m there every single time so my teammates have an option to play to,” Pinto said. “Even though there are some that I missed and one got called back, I move on to the next play because I want to make sure that I'm not dwelling on the past and finding a way to compete at 100 percent all game.”

UNC had other close opportunities to score beyond Pinto’s disallowed goal. In the first half, sophomore forward Aleigh Gambone was fouled on the edge of the box. While some players screamed for a penalty kick, the referee only awarded a free kick. Head coach Anson Dorrance said he’d look back at the tape to determine what really went on.

“I also want to look at where Gambone was fouled,” Dorrance said. “Was it in the box? If that was in the box, there's another opportunity then to basically get to possibly three. And then, of course, you're over-the-moon happy if you're scoring three goals out of 17 shots.”

Historically, Virginia Tech hasn’t seen much success against UNC. UNC’s record against the Hokies after this win stands at a dominant 20-2. Their previous meeting in September ended much the same way: a dominant UNC notched 19 shots to Virginia Tech’s three, but the game ended with a 1-0 scoreline thanks to the Pinto goal. Fox said there are certain aspects of the Hokies’ game that made the Tar Heels’ strengths even stronger.

“I noticed a lot of times that the left side  — my side — was kind of left open,” Fox said. “Luckily, there was a lot of space for me to get into that I saw. And then also, I think in general, throughout the entire season, we’ve done a great job of getting people in the box. So any time someone does serve it, we always have someone near, front and back, so that’s helpful.”

In the end, though, whether it was a blowout or not — and whether that showed in the scoreline or not — doesn’t really matter. The score could have been 2-0, 3-0 or even 300-0, but the result would have been the same: the Tar Heels advanced to the semifinals, and will need to keep winning to make their third consecutive finals appearance. This fact was not lost on Dorrance.

“The kind of soccer we want to play is where we keep winning and keep advancing,” Dorrance said. “So we're certainly checking that box.”

@pjdaman12

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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