The No. 3 North Carolina women’s soccer team (2-0, 0-0 ACC) won 1-0 over No. 13 Arkansas (0-1, 0-0 SEC) on Sunday after an extra time golden goal from sophomore Sam Meza.
The Tar Heels created scoring opportunities out of the gates, earning two corners in the opening 10 minutes of play. UNC had success getting into the box through the early part of the match, whipping crosses into dangerous areas and threatening to score. Still, the Tar Heels couldn’t quite connect and maintained a 0-0 draw before making their first substitution in the 17th minute.
In the 23rd minute, Arkansas forced a save from North Carolina senior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey, with the Razorbacks’ Jessica De Filippo teeing one off right in front of the net, but UNC marched right back down the field and earned another corner.
In the 31st minute, the Tar Heels had their best opportunity of the afternoon to that point — with juniors Maggie Pierce and Aleigh Gambone missing shooting wide of the posts on consecutive opportunities in the box.
In the final minutes of the opening frame, the Tar Heels struggled to play the ball out of the back with Arkansas pressing hard in UNC’s defending third. Still, when North Carolina was able to break through the Razorbacks’ press, they continued to have success creating opportunities — earning a shot and corner in the 39th minute.
As the whistle went off to signal halftime, the two sides remained tied, 0-0, despite a quick pace of play and eight combined shots between them.
UNC started the second half with its foot pressed on the gas, notching four shots in dangerous territory before the 50th minute.
But the Tar Heels best opportunity in the first hour came by way of a shot from Emily Colton in the 59th minute, where she broke through Arkansas’ defense and stared down a net with just the Razorbacks’ keeper in her way before firing the shot wide of the post.
After a counterattack in the 69th minute, junior Isabel Cox had a near-goal stopped once again by Arkansas keeper Hannah Warner, who added her third save of the afternoon on that stop.
As the half went on, North Carolina earned chance after chance, totaling 12 shots in the second 45 minutes, but continued to be denied the breakthrough goal through a combination of outstanding play from Warner and a failure to put shots on target. The match headed into extra time — UNC’s first overtime match since Nov. 10, 2019 — tied 0-0, before a weather delay pushed back the start of the additional minutes.
After a delay that lasted just over an hour, sophomore Sam Meza rocketed a ball into the back of the net to seal a North Carolina victory through the golden goal.
Who stood out?
Senior forward Rachel Jones provided UNC with a number of its quality chances, finishing the match with a game-high four shots — one of which was on goal — and consistently threatened Arkansas’ back line with pacy runs.
Meza was equally impressive, even aside from her game-deciding goal, tying Jones with four shots and displaying impressive ability on the ball throughout the match.
When was it decided?
Not until Meza’s goal was the match’s outcome decided, as both teams continued to display pace and have success on the counterattack creating goal-scoring opportunities after the weather delay. But with UNC securing the majority of the chances in the second half and extra time period, it was the Tar Heels who came out on top.
Why does it matter?
This was the Tar Heels’ second consecutive top-25 matchup to start the 2021 season, and represented another key step on North Carolina’s road to making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. With a stacked ACC schedule ahead, continuing to perform against elite opponents will be key in North Carolina’s development with the talented rosters the Tar Heels will face in their pursuit of continued national success.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will head to Illinois on Thursday, Aug. 26 for a 9 p.m. match with the Fighting Illini.