In a top-five rivalry matchup, the No. 2 North Carolina women’s soccer team (6-1) routed No. 3 Duke (5-2), 3-0, at Koskinen Stadium on Thursday evening.
UNC senior forward Isabel Cox had an open look just four minutes into the match on the right side, but the shot sailed high. Two minutes later, Duke star forward Michelle Cooper broke free on the left side but was called for being offside.
Although neither team was able to get a clean look for 30 minutes, the physicality and aggression were evidenced by noticeably chippy play — there were six fouls over six minutes, including a yellow card on UNC after senior defender Tori Hansen collided with Cooper. North Carolina forward Sam Meza picked up a yellow card 25 minutes into the bout after a skirmish in the midfield.
The Tar Heels’ first corner kick of the game came in the 35th minute when senior forward Emily Moxley delivered a pass to the far right side of the goalkeeper box. Hansen connected for a header to put UNC on the scoreboard. North Carolina received a team yellow card shortly after, most likely due to excessive celebration.
Within the first two minutes of the second half, first-year forward Tori Dellaperuta dribbled the ball across to the left side of the box, outpacing Duke goalkeeper Ruthie Jones. Dellaperuta fired a shot, but it was saved by a sliding Duke midfielder Olivia Migli.
On the ensuing corner kick, Hansen almost snuck the ball past Jones, who dove down and secured the shot. The Tar Heels continued to maintain offensive control, with Meza finding an opening near the right post and crossing it inside. The pass was denied.
For the next 20 minutes, neither team could break through more than forcing corner kicks. The Tar Heels forced two but couldn’t capitalize, and the defensive-oriented Blue Devils continued to earn fewer and fewer possessions.
In the 74th minute, Meza surveyed the field from the right and spotted sophomore forward Emily Murphy sprinting towards the goal, finding an open lane. Meza floated a 40-yard pass to Murphy, who sent the ball past Jones to extend the lead to 2-0.
In the next four minutes, the teams combined for three fouls, including a yellow card on Duke defender Emily Royson. From there, the Tar Heels sealed its victory with a third goal, coming from a Cox goal off a feed from sophomore midfielder Emily Colton.
Who stood out?
Though she picked up a yellow card early, it was the veteran Hansen who found the back of the net in the early corner kick and accounted for UNC’s lone first-half goal.
Meza was active throughout the entire game and all over the field — facilitating the offense, distributing the ball and playing scrappy defense. Often stopping to vocalize her opinions to referees over controversial calls, Meza finished with a foul, yellow card and the game-sealing assist.
When was it decided?
When Meza saw Murphy cutting from over 40 yards away and lofted a precise pass that ultimately put the Tar Heels up 2-0, the game was essentially out of reach for Duke. For most of the second half, North Carolina maintained consistent possession and kept up the offensive pressure, hindering the Blue Devils from mustering a last-minute comeback.
In a broader context, North Carolina stayed true to its strategy this season by outshooting Duke 15 to two and having four corner kicks to Duke’s one, exemplifying the dominant ball control in the second half.
Why does it matter?
Last season, the Blue Devils dealt North Carolina its first-ever loss at Dorrance Field, shutting the Tar Heels out 1-0. The Tar Heels avenged last year’s defeat with a 3-0 shutout at Koskinen Field.
With elite defenders in senior Maycee Bell and first-year Kayleigh Herr sidelined due to injury, the Tar Heels needed to hone its defensive groove against a loaded Duke offense. Both teams came into the matchup with equal 5-1 records, with the sole losses both being to top-ranked UCLA.
UNC tuned out the noise of a hostile Duke crowd, persisted through several no-calls and should now have cemented its status as the No. 2 team in the country.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels return to Dorrance Field on Sunday against UCF at 1 p.m.
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