CARY, N.C. — With less than seven minutes left to play against Virginia Tech, North Carolina's Brianna Pinto intercepted a pass at midfield and sprinted for the Hokies' goal.
VT's Caroline Cipolla grabbed Pinto's arm to slow her opponent down before Pinto dragged her along for 15 yards. Eventually, Cipolla conceded and dragged Pinto to the ground by her jersey, realizing it was the only way to slow down the junior midfielder, who had been the engine for the North Carolina women's soccer team all night.
Efforts like Cipolla's, which earned her a late-game yellow card, have proven to be the only answer the Hokies were able to muster this season when it came to stopping Pinto from defeating them.
The UNC midfielder scored her team's lone goal against Virginia Tech in a 1-0 win when the two sides squared off on Sept. 20. There was a sense of déjà vu when Pinto matched that performance with a game-winning score in Tuesday night's ACC Women's Soccer Championship quarterfinals matchup, another 1-0 win for the Tar Heels that improved their record to 10-0 on the season.
“She’s absolutely critical for us," UNC head coach Anson Dorrance said. "What I love about Pinto is she’s got some wonderful qualities, but her best quality for us right now is when we are endline and we’re about to serve the box, she is in the box, and she can score in a myriad of ways.”
With under 20 minutes remaining in the first half, Pinto drifted out wide to the right side of the field, watching as her teammates diced up the Hokies' midfield.