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Sunday September 26th

Analysis: With ACC play looming, UNC's women's soccer remains unbeaten — for now

UNC players celebrate after scoring a goal at the soccer game against Washington on Thursday August 19, 2021 at the Dorrance Field.
Buy Photos UNC players celebrate after scoring a goal at the soccer game against Washington on Thursday August 19, 2021 at the Dorrance Field.

The No. 2 UNC women’s soccer team stands unbeaten after seven games as the Tar Heels now look to preserve their dominance in ACC play.

Off the heels of a season-ending loss to Santa Clara in the College Cup semifinals in May, no team this year has found an answer for North Carolina thus far. The team has outscored its opponents 23-4 through seven games.

It’s been nearly a decade since UNC last won a national title in 2012. The closest they’ve come is NCAA Tournament runner-up in both 2018 and 2019, but the team looks poised to make a long postseason run this season.

The Tar Heels have notched impressive victories this season, including a notable win against then-undefeated Stanford, which is currently ranked No. 11, in overtime. North Carolina’s final game before ACC play against No. 17 UCF was declared no contest due to weather. 

UNC has been one of a number of successful women's soccer programs in the ACC during the 2021 season. The conference features four additional nationally-ranked teams — No. 3 Virginia, No. 5 Duke, No. 20 Pitt and perhaps the biggest threat to their perfect season, No. 1 Florida State. 

The Tar Heels will face off against each of these teams before the regular season comes to an end in October. Their first ACC matchup will be against Duke on Friday. The Blue Devils have also had a perfect season up until this point. Florida State, the last ranked ACC team UNC faces, is also unbeaten.

North Carolina's impressive undefeated start is an accomplishment shared by other prominent programs, so maintaining a perfect record will require the team to beat many more quality opponents.

The UNC women’s soccer team finds much of its success through its fast-paced, possession-heavy style of play, emphasizing attacking maneuvers as well as the leadership and guidance of head coach Anson Dorrance. That strong style of play has let multiple players shine this season.

Senior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey has played all 90 minutes of every game this season, a feat she also accomplished in her junior campaign. Dickey allowed just nine goals in the 2020-21 season, earning her a spot on the All-ACC first team. So far this season, she has allowed four goals and helped lead the team to three shutout wins. Moving further into her final season as a Tar Heel, Dickey’s performance as goalkeeper will be essential to the team’s success. 

Senior attacker Rachel Jones also serves as a leader for the UNC squad. Jones, who was a third-team All-American last season, started every game last season. In those 20 games, she scored six goals and has two goals and three assists so far this season. 

UNC also sports one of the strongest defensive lines in the country, spearheaded by the partnership of former first-team All-ACC junior Maycee Bell and junior Julia Dorsey. 

Jones’ work on offense and Dickey’s work on goal, combined with the support of a youthful crop of new teammates and the experienced tandem of Bell and Dorsey in the back, will all be determining factors in North Carolina’s conference play.

The undefeated North Carolina women’s soccer team has had a strong start to its 2021 campaign, but with less than half of the regular season under its belt and rigorous ACC play right around the corner, only time will tell if the Tar Heels are destined to remain perfect.

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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