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UNC women's soccer falls to rival Duke in a defensive slugfest, losing 1-0

First-year midfielder Lauren Wrigley (11) runs after the ball at the game against Duke at Dorrance Field on Sept. 17. UNC lost 1-0.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas' signature catchphrase about the North Carolina-Duke men's basketball rivalry is: "It always delivers."

That catchphrase transcends the hardwood, as a matchup between the rival teams is almost always close — as it was Friday night at Dorrance Field.

The No. 2 North Carolina women's soccer team suffered its first loss of the season, falling 1-0 to No. 4 Duke in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,301 fans.

Played in front of Dorrance Field's largest crowd of all time, the game saw its share of chippy, hard-nosed defensive play between the Triangle foes.

With UNC's leading scorer, first-year forward Emily Murphy, out with an ankle injury and a talented but inexperienced backline, the team knew it would have its hands full with their talented rival.

Both top-ranked teams came into the game undefeated thus far this season. And despite the loss, North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance said there were many positives about the matchup. 

“Sometimes when it’s Duke-Carolina, people are coming for the rivalry or the occasion," Dorrance said. "Now, they’re coming for the standard and performance.”

The youth of UNC's defense was visible during Duke’s goal, when North Carolina mishandled a routine left-side attack and cut a Blue Devil loose wide open in front of the net.

Dorrance credited Duke’s players for how they took advantage of their opportunities and limited UNC’s.

“They scored a great transition goal there and went right through us with quality passes and quality penetration," he said. "Their defense just didn’t give us too many real chances. We rarely got a clean shot inside the 18.”

The Tar Heels' senior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey made three saves, including a timely one in the 80th minute to prevent the Blue Devils from extending their lead. She could not, however, stop the game's lone goal in the 54th minute.

The Charlotte native talked about that sequence and how UNC’s defense just needs more time to play together.

“We haven’t been together that much," Dickey said. “They knew how to exploit that, and I think sometimes we struggle with communication and staying compact when we get tired. They knew where we were weak from watching film and put pressure on us all the time."

Dickey credits Duke’s goal to UNC’s defenders being disconnected – part of their youth and overall inexperience – but knows the defense can fix its mistake.

“Once the ball went wide, we didn’t really check our shoulders,” Dickey said. “Usually in those situations, they don’t score. That’ll be a good lesson for us, to know that little things like that make a big difference.”

Offensively, senior forward Rachel Jones led the Tar Heels in shots with five, but she didn't do it alone. Jones praised first-year for helping Emily Colton set up open looks.

“She drew a lot of players to her because she is so dangerous and when I was open, she would play me," Jones said. "She really helped out today.”

North Carolina controlled the ball for 56 percent of the match, but could not materialize its possessions into goals. Jones mentioned that she and her teammates know they must get better at putting the ball in the back of the net.

“I think we possessed the ball really well, switched it really well,” Jones said. “Of course, we could’ve finished our chances. That’s the main thing.”

@DTHSports |

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