After an undefeated fall season, the North Carolina women’s soccer team suffered a tough 3-2 loss against the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC championship game in November. Since the beginning of the spring season, the Tar Heels have come back strong with an undefeated spring campaign to this point.
They now look forward to competing in the NCAA Tournament in hopes of winning the College Cup. Here's what to look out for.
North Carolina’s history in the NCAA
The Tar Heels have won 21 NCAA national championships since 1982, with their last victory being a 4-1 win against Penn State in 2012. They also won the 1981 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championship game the year before women's soccer became an NCAA sport.
All told, UNC has the most women's soccer titles of all time.
But in the last two national championship games, North Carolina finished as the runner-up both times, losing 1-0 against Florida State in 2018 and falling in penalty kicks against Stanford in 2019.
Ranked as the No. 2 overall seed, North Carolina has a good chance of advancing through the field, but the road will still be tough.
Entering an NCAA Tournament, which will be held entirely in the Tar Heel state, UNC will face the winner of a Denver-Loyola matchup in the second round.
Some familiar ACC foes the Tar Heels could potentially run into are No. 1 seed Florida State, No. 14 Clemson and No. 9 Duke. After losing to Florida State in both the 2018 NCAA title game and the 2020 ACC Tournament, the Seminoles have a history of coming out on top against the Tar Heels.
Key players to watch
Despite being drafted by the Sky Blue Football Club as the No. 3 overall pick in the NWSL Draft, junior midfielder Brianna Pinto decided to stay at North Carolina for her final collegiate season before heading off for the pros. Pinto has been a force to be reckoned with on the field, as she is ranked fourth nationally and second in the ACC in game-winning goals in the fall. Pinto’s speed, agility and offensive skills will be vital for Tar Heels to advance through the tournament.
Sophomore defender Maycee Bell was named ACC Freshman of the Year in 2019 and selected second-team All-ACC in fall 2020. She has been a key member of the Tar Heel back line since first stepping on the field as a first-year and is considered one of the top defenders in the country.
Versatile first-year Talia Dellaperuta plays as a forward, midfielder and defender for UNC. Like Bell, she started in her very first game as a Tar Heel and has made plays on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field. She has scored five goals — including two game-winners — as the team's starting midfielder.
Junior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey has proven to be a dominant player in the net. She ranked second in the nation in shutouts and was selected first-team All-ACC after the fall 2020 season. Between Dickey and the defensive core, North Carolina has only allowed six goals this season.
After coming just short in two straight national title games, the Tar Heels will look to get back to their winning ways and earn their 23rd title this spring.