For the first time in head coach Anson Dorrance’s career, the North Carolina women’s soccer (12-2-4, 5-2-3 ACC) lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, falling to South Carolina (12-6-1, 6-3-1 SEC), 1-0, at Dorrance Field on Saturday afternoon.
Within the first two minutes of play, the Tar Heels had a promising opportunity to score on a left-side header from junior forward Isabel Cox, but it was saved by Gamecock goalkeeper Heather Hinz.
In the 10th minute, a foul on junior defender Maycee Bell set up a South Carolina free kick, leading to a shot from midfielder Samantha Chang which sailed out left. The possession allowed for a South Carolina corner kick, but the Gamecocks could not capitalize.
Shortly after first-year forward Emily Murphy’s shot from the corner of the box skimmed the top of the net, the Gamecocks broke away for an open look from forward Catherine Barry, who shook off a Tar Heel defender and cut back for a bottom center shot. However, it was saved by senior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey.
The two Carolina teams continued their back and forth play, with neither team getting a scoring opportunity until the 41st minute, when a free kick from senior forward Rachel Jones glanced off the left post. The first half ended scoreless, with both teams attempting four shots.
A foul on junior forward Aleigh Gambone in the 50th minute set up a South Carolina free kick from the right corner of the goal box. South Carolina midfielder Lauren Chang shot the ball over the wall of Tar Heel defenders, but it was saved by Dickey.
Although the physicality from both teams was evident throughout the match, significantly more fouls were called in the second half. Six fouls were called in the span of seven minutes, including a yellow card on junior midfielder Maggie Pierce.
In the 58th minute, a missed shot by UNC sophomore Avery Patterson set up a corner kick. Bell headed the ball, but it ricocheted off the left goalpost.
Then, with just under 10 minutes in regulation, the Gamecocks scored. Chang crossed the ball to Gamecock forward Luciana Zullo, whose shot bounced off the grass and found the back of the net, putting South Carolina up 1-0.
A trailing UNC team poured on the aggression, with shots from Patterson and first-year forward Lauren Wrigley putting pressure on the South Carolina defense, but the Gamecocks ultimately held the Tar Heels at bay.
Who stood out?
UNC sophomore Talia Dellaperuta had two shots, one on goal, in just 26 minutes of play. Other Tar Heels with a shot on goal included Cox and first-year midfielder Ruby Grant.
Barry led the offensive charge for the Gamecocks, attempting three of South Carolina’s nine shots. Chang’s assist to Zullo accounted for the lone goal from either team.
When was it decided?
The teams seemed to be evenly matched throughout the entire game, logging in a similar amount of shots on goal, saves and fouls. However, it was Zullo’s late goal that sealed the game. The Tar Heels shot the ball twice and had a corner kick, but could not tie the score as time ran out.
Why does it matter?
In Dorrance’s 45 years with UNC, the Tar Heels have never lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, notching a historic 39-0 opening round record. Moreover, North Carolina has made it to the third round 38 of those 39 times.
This loss marks an unprecedented early end to the Tar Heels’ season, who have consistently made deep playoff runs in recent years.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, thus ending their 2021-2022 season.
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