In its season opener, the No. 10 North Carolina women’s soccer team pulled away in the second half to defeat No. 11 Tennessee, 3-0.
The Volunteers opened the match in the Tar Heels’ attacking third, yet UNC’s defense neutralized the threat with its back line defense. In the 7th minute, the Tar Heels attempted to counter, yet first-year Tori DellaPeruta’s strike was handled by Tennessee goalkeeper Ally Zazzara.
UNC earned its first corner kick moments later and the ball found its way to the far side and into the legs of junior Sam Meza. Meza played a ball into first-year Tessa Dellarose, but her shot sailed high.
Following a long stretch of solid defensive play, the Tar Heels earned another corner kick in the 26th minute, but when Meza’s secondary cross found senior Tori Hansen, her header attempt rolled left of the net.
With 10 minutes to play, the UNC attack broke into the Tennessee box, but sophomore Emily Murphy’s attempt was deflected by Zazzara and kicked away at the goal line by the Volunteer defense. Hansen’s rebound attempt was also unsuccessful, and the score remained 0-0.
UNC opened up the scoring in the 39th minute. After an over-the-top pass was played into sophomore Ruby Grant, her header attempt was saved before senior Aleigh Gambone followed the miss to find the back of the net to give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
The Tar Heels raced out of the break, and DellaPeruta had two chances that just missed. For the first time in a while, Tennessee had a chance to equalize, yet senior goalkeeper Marz Josephson made a leaping save to knock the Volunteers' attempt over the crossbar. On a Tennessee corner, Josephson made another save in just her first few minutes of action.
After a number of attempts from Isabel Cox were saved, the Tar Heels broke through in the 66th minute when Meza played a cross into Hansen, who headed the ball into the bottom left corner to put UNC up 2-0.
With just over 12 minutes to play, the Tar Heels found themselves in a breakaway opportunity, which was capped off by a through ball from Murphy to Patterson, who beat the goalkeeper to stretch the lead to three goals.
From there, the defense shut down any last-ditch attempt at a comeback and the Tar Heels wrapped up their 3-0 victory.
Who stood out?
Following an offensive dry spell in the first half, Gambone helped the Tar Heels get on the board late with her first career goal. Hansen's goal was the second of her career, which came via Meza's seventh career assist.
The Tar Heels were led by their staunch defensive effort, but when Tennessee appeared destined to break through and equalize the game in the second half, Josephson's timely saves kept the Volunteers scoreless en route to the shutout.
When was it decided?
Although Gambone's goal put UNC on the board, the Tar Heels pulled ahead for good when they ramped up their high volume of shot attempts. When Hansen's goal made it 2-0, it gave the team a comfortable lead that all but secured the victory.
Why does it matter?
The win gives the Tar Heels their eighth consecutive season-opening triumph. UNC now boasts a 12-0-1 against Tennessee, including a 7-0 mark in Chapel Hill.
After losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever during the 2021 season, head coach Anson Dorrance and the rest of the coaching staff made it a priority to work on its offensive creativity this offseason. Despite finishing the first half with only eight shots, the attacking area opened up in the second, as the team finished the match with 24.
Following the graduation of former goalkeeper Claudia Dickey, a major storyline heading into the year was who the Tar Heels would start in net. Redshirt first-year Emmie Allen played the entirety of the first half, but Josephson took over in the second, giving the team a number of options moving forward.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will face UNCW at Dorrance Field on Sunday at 1 p.m.
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