In its final non-conference bout of the year, the No. 2 North Carolina women’s soccer team (7-1) defeated the Central Florida Knights (2-2-2), 2-1, Sunday afternoon at Dorrance Field.
UCF earned the match's first possession, but the Knight's attack was quickly shut down by the Tar Heels’ defense. In the eighth minute, the Knights logged the first shot of the game, with fifth-year forward Mallory Olsson’s blast from outside the goal box sailing wide.
After spending most of the contest’s opening minutes in its defending third, North Carolina’s offense ramped up the pressure. Junior midfielder Avery Patterson found herself with a breakaway opportunity, but redshirt senior goalie Caroline DeLisle denied UNC’s top scorer to keep the game tied at zero.
The Tar Heels found themselves with another prime scoring chance four minutes later when a low bouncing cross sent into UCF’s box trickled its way to the foot of Tessa Dellarose. The first-year defender sent a strike that appeared to be on its way into the back of the net, but the line-drive shot ricocheted off the right post and out of play.
In the 24th minute, Central Florida broke the standstill. After receiving a pass from Olsson, senior forward Ellie Moreno twisted a lofting shot that nestled itself into the top right corner of the goal.
UNC’s offense would continue to struggle as the Tar Heels would not tally another shot until the tail end of the first half. With North Carolina still trailing by one goal, redshirt first-year forward Ally Sentnor danced her way between a pair of Knight defenders and sent home the equalizer with under 90 seconds remaining in the half.
Out of the break, UNC’s offense found its legs. In the 59th minute, Patterson positioned herself with another path to goal, and this time the junior midfielder capitalized, giving North Carolina a 2-1 lead.
With the game in control, the Tar Heels looked to increase their lead. But the Knights’ defense remained stout, fending off numerous scoring chances by North Carolina including a Sentnor shot just feet away from the goal.
However, UCF’s offense could not compliment its backline, and UNC held on to win, 2-1.
Who stood out?
For the large majority of the first half, the Tar Heels’ offensive was unable to sustain possessions in its attacking end, committing eight offside violations.
Yet, Sentnor worked through North Carolina’s lethargic attack and blasted home UNC’s first goal of the game. After being sidelined with an ACL injury last season, the once highly touted recruit has established herself as one of UNC’s top scoring options off the bench.
Patterson continued her impressive junior campaign, as her transition into a more offensive role this season has paid dividends. The Jacksonville, Fla. native’s unassisted goal marked her sixth goal of the season.
When was it decided?
The Knights opened up the scoring with the first goal of the game and put the Tar Heels behind for just the second time this season. But Sentnors’ late-half goal helped knot the game up heading into the halftime break.
Out of the break, UNC’s offense found its next gear. Patterson’s top-self strike gave North Carolina its first lead of the match, an advantage the Tar Heels would not surrender.
Why does it matter?
After defeating Duke in a hard-fought win Thursday night, the Tar Heels looked to have tired legs to start Sunday’s contest. UNC’s visible fatigue eventually spelled trouble, as the Knights scored the first goal of the contest midway through the first half.
But the Tar Heels’ ability to withstand the Knight’s early push should boost UNC’s confidence heading into conference play.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels return to the pitch on Saturday and host the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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