With its ACC championship hopes on the line, the North Carolina women’s soccer team (11-2-3, 4-2-3 ACC) escaped another late deficit to defeat Notre Dame (12-4-1, 6-3-0 ACC), 2-1, in overtime.
It’s a senior day victory that gives them a chance to avoid missing ACC postseason play for the first time in school history, and it’s a milestone win that adds to the legacy of legendary head coach Anson Dorrance.
North Carolina faced its first obstacle right away when star junior defender Maycee Bell had to be carried off the field just over a minute into the match. However, the Tar Heels were able to respond and get the first two great chances of the day from Bell’s replacement.
Defender Paige Tolentino delivered a great cross to the back post that was headed just right of the goal. The sophomore then got a good look at a cross right in front of goal, but sailed the ball too high.
UNC continued to put pressure on the Irish back line, getting another solid chance from first-year midfielder Emily Colton. Colton corralled the ball just outside of the box and blasted a shot that smacked the center of the crossbar.
Despite the opportunities from North Carolina, it was Notre Dame that struck first early in the second half. The Irish found a wide-open Olivia Wingate in front of the net off a beautiful sequence of passing. The senior finished the ball with ease. Wingate had another scoring chance in the box, but senior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey made a sliding save to keep the game within reach.
Then, with only 12 minutes remaining, sophomore forward Mollie Baker got the ball at the right corner of the box. Baker looked to her left and found a wide open Colton sprinting to the back post for a simple finish to tie the match.
The Tar Heels hit their opponent with a flurry of scoring opportunities before time expired. Sophomore midfielder Sam Meza hit a strike from outside the box that was deflected off Ashley Naylor – the ND goalie – and off the post. Then, as time expired, Moxley skillfully hit a loose ball off a set piece at the net, but Naylor made a huge save to send the game into overtime.
Naylor came through for her team again in overtime after she punched away a one-timer from Lauren Wrigley. The first-year midfielder got terrific power, connecting on a bouncing ball, but she was denied a game-winning moment by Naylor’s quick reflexes.
That moment would eventually come for UNC from the head of sophomore Avery Patterson. Sophomore forward Emily Moxley provided a fantastic cross into the box, and Patterson rose above the Notre Dame defender to seal a win for her team.
Who stood out?
Patterson was the hero of the match, using a clinical header to get her team a much-needed three points. It was her fifth goal of the season and arguably her most important one. She was moved all over the field, filling in for Bell on the back line, while also getting sent more to the wings to attack.
Colton, who scored the opening goal also had a great performance. She was a force in the attack all game, bouncing back from her narrow miss earlier in the match to get her team level in the closing stages.
When was it decided?
The mindset of UNC changed when the Irish got their first goal. The Tar Heels developed a sense of desperation and aggression as they tried to get a tying score to salvage their conference postseason hopes. They ended up scoring two huge goals off of this mindset, while Notre Dame failed to establish any sort of attacking threat.
Why does it matter?
Dorrance earned a Gatorade shower and obtained his 900th career win on the field named after him. It’s another accolade that further sweetens the Hall of Famer’s legacy.
As for the team, the Tar Heels kept themselves in the hunt for a top-six spot in the ACC standings, which is needed to qualify for the postseason tournament.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Coral Gables on Oct. 28 to take on Miami at 7 p.m. in a season-defining match.
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