When a team doubles the other team in shots taken, it typically makes winning the game a lot easier.
This, however, was not the case in the No. 5 North Carolina women’s soccer team’s game against the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon. The Tar Heels held a 20-10 shot advantage, but the match ended in a scoreless draw.
There were moments throughout the game where shots that normally would go in just didn’t. This was for a variety of reasons, one of them being that Virginia goalkeeper Laurel Ivory played what UNC head coach Anson Dorrance called "the best game I've ever seen her play."
Another reason was missed opportunities by the Tar Heels offense. Having 20 shots with only five of them being on goal is not ideal. Multiple times throughout the game, potential scoring chances were booted left, right and over the goal.
“The sport that delivers the dominant team least often is soccer," Dorrance said. "All of a sudden you play a team, you outshoot them 20-to-1 and you lose on their one shot. I wasn’t disappointed in our play, I wasn’t disappointed in our effort, I was just disappointed in our finishing. It’s maddening.”
The UNC offense returned a key piece today in first-year forward Emily Murphy, who missed three games due to injury. Despite missing time, she still entered Sunday’s game as the Tar Heels’ points leader.
However, even Murphy couldn’t help the team put anything on the scoreboard. Although two of her three shots were on goal, the one that sailed high could’ve won the game in the second overtime period.
“Murphy has a professional polish and a professional future that’s absolutely unique,” Dorrance said. “To get her back is extraordinary, but she missed a sitter in the second overtime period, she had a volley seven yards out, so she’s got a little bit of rust from her injury that she’s gotta knock off to get back to top form.”
Of course, though, you can’t achieve a draw without scoring a goal if your defense doesn’t show out, especially against the No. 2 team in the nation.
The Tar Heel defense features strong players from the likes of junior Maycee Bell and sophomore Avery Patterson. Bell and Patterson were part of the reason UNC allowed just two shots on goal, and made senior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey’s life as easy as possible. Dickey was only forced to make two saves in the game.
“I think this game shows that we’re really resilient,” Bell said. “I know we’ve had a tough couple of games against Duke and Virginia Tech. I think we came into this game knowing that it was our responsibility to stay focused the entire time and stay locked in and I think we did that.”
Shutting out the Cavaliers is certainly a sign that the defensive unit is a strength for the Tar Heels, but holding an opponent scoreless for 110 minutes is something that cannot be expected each outing.
If the offense can’t capitalize on the other end, it won’t be able to win games.
“We’ve had a lot of shots in all of our games, especially our Virginia Tech game, we had 30-something shots,” first-year forward Emily Colton said. “It’s a bummer to not put any of those in when we have so many opportunities, but it’s better than not getting any opportunities and I think the finishing piece will come.”
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