Throughout the first half of Sunday’s 3-0 victory against Boston College, the North Carolina women's soccer team seemed to be experiencing a hangover from its previous gritty match.
After grinding out what UNC Head Coach Anson Dorrance called a “very frustrating” win on a cold, rainy Thursday night in Syracuse, the team’s struggles with ball movement and shot accuracy seemed to carry over into the opening minutes of Sunday's game.
“That’s unfortunately the game of soccer,” senior defender Tori Hansen said. “Scoring goals – Anson always says it – it’s one of the hardest parts of the game.”
It wasn’t until Dorrance plugged in his second unit around the 30-minute mark that the team came alive.
After forwards Ally Sentnor and Avery Patterson missed shots that usually would have resulted in goals, they were replaced by first-years Maddie Dahlien and Tori DellaPeruta up front.
First-year midfielder Kate Faasse also checked in, as did junior midfielder Talia DellaPeruta, Tori DellaPuerta's older sister. Sunday marked Talia Dellaperuta's first game of the season, as she missed the first several games recovering from injury. While still limited to just 15 minutes of playing time per half, the elder DellaPeruta quickly made her presence felt.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Talia DellaPeruta made a run at the goal, set up by a perfect cross through traffic from Dahlien. After Talia DellaPeruta’s sliding shot ricocheted off Boston College goalkeeper Wiebke Willebrandt, Faasse found the rebound for the finish.
“That one, I have to give credit to Maddie and Tal, because they were gonna bury it but I was just in the right place, right time,” Faasse said.
Thanks to the goal made possible by the UNC bench, the Tar Heels entered the break reinvigorated. According to Dorrance, associate head coach Damon Nahas implored the team to take their play up a level.
“The things Damon Nahas said at halftime were critical for us because we were almost lethargic in how slowly we were moving the ball,” Dorrance said.
Early in the second half, it was clear that the message had gotten through. Ninety seconds in, Hansen nailed a penalty kick after Boston College junior midfielder Laura Gouvin was called for a handball inside the box. Soon after that, Patterson netted a goal from the right side, assisted by senior forward Isabel Cox.
Up 3-0, UNC seemed to feel comfortable at home for the first time in a while.
“The only time you really feel safe in soccer is at 3-0,” Dorrance said. “I mean, we’re at 2-0 versus Virginia and we lose.”
Unlike the 3-2 loss to Virginia, the UNC defense continued to be sturdy through 90 minutes of play to secure the clean sheet. Dorrance emptied his bench as the game wore on, playing all 27 players available to him on Sunday.
Several of those Tar Heels that saw minutes off the bench provided a glimpse at what the future of the team could look like. Dorrance pointed towards Dahlien and Faasse as players he thinks will serve significant roles going forward.
“There are fireballs everywhere,” Faasse said of the team’s reserves.
Looking towards the immediate future, the Tar Heels will get to enjoy six days of rest before heading up to Blacksburg to play Virginia Tech on Saturday night. While the bench players came through against Boston College, the team hopes it won’t have to lean on them against the Hokies to get the offense rolling.
“We’re gonna keep investing in the things that we didn’t do well today, which is finishing, and we’re going to invest in continuing to evolve as an elite team,” Dorrance said.
@dthsports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.