In a top-3 matchup, the No. 1 North Carolina women’s soccer team (5-1, 0-0 ACC) was defeated by No. 3 UCLA (5-0, 0-0 Pac-12) by a score of 2-1 at Dorrance Field on Sunday afternoon.
UCLA lined up with five defenders on the back line, which allowed the Tar Heels to continuously work their way into the attacking front in the early stage. UNC racked up four shots in the first 10 minutes, yet these attempts were unsuccessful. The Bruins tried to counter by firing a high pass into the box, but redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen made a diving save in the 14th minute to keep the game scoreless.
After a series of offensive buildups that featured an abundance of short passing, UNC attempted to stretch the field with long over-the-top passes over UCLA’s defenders. However, most of these tries were stymied by the Bruins’ stout play recognition, which caused the Tar Heels to attempt only one shot in a 15-minute span.
With just under seven minutes to play in the half, the Tar Heels gave the ball away in the attacking third, which led to a counter from the Bruins. However, this attempt was thwarted when UCLA played a through ball into the box that was scooped up by Allen as she tumbled to the grass. Both teams traded possessions for the final minutes, yet neither side could find the back of the net as the game was scoreless at halftime.
Less than two minutes into the second half, the Tar Heels finally got on the board. After setting up a corner on the right side, first-year Tessa Dellarose sent a cross into the box, which was headed back by a UCLA defender. The deflection found first-year Tori DellaPeruta on the far side of the net, who bounced a low header into the net to give UNC a 1-0 lead.
After several UNC defensive stops, UCLA scored an equalizer in the 61st minute. Working on the left side of the attacking area, Bruin forward Lexi Wright took on two Tar Heel defenders before juking left and firing a shot just past the outstretched arms of newly inserted senior goalkeeper Marz Josephson to draw even.
Following the goal, the Tar Heels immediately drew two corners hoping to regain the lead. The first was a high cross that played over the head of the team's attackers, and the second was shut down when senior Emily Moxley struck a low shot that was saved by UCLA's Lauren Brzykcy. UNC nearly broke through on the third corner attempt, but several shots were knocked away by the Bruins in a chaotic skirmish near the net to keep the score tied at one goal apiece.
With just under 15 minutes to play, the Tar Heels had their best scoring chance of the afternoon. Working her way into the box, sophomore Emily Murphy played a through pass into senior Isabel Cox, whose shot rang off the crossbar. On the rebound, first-year Maddie Dahlien fired a rocket at Brzykcy, but the attempt was saved. Two minutes later, Moxley sent a shot from just outside the box to the bottom left corner, but Brzykcy made another crucial save.
In the 86th minute, UCLA's Reilyn Turner collided with UNC’s Tori Hansen on the right sideline at midfield and moved into the open space. With little defensive pressure in the area, the she dribbled into the box and shot the ball past Josephson to give the Bruins a late 2-1 lead.
UNC tried to equalize the contest late, yet couldn't produce a real scoring threat, which resulted in the team's 2-1 loss.
Who stood out?
Dellarose was all over the pitch throughout the match, as she controlled the middle of the field both offensively and defensively. Her assist on the corner kick paved the way for the Tar Heels to get on the board early in the second half.
DellaPeruta's goal was her third of the season, which ranks second on the team.
When was it decided?
Following a scoreless first half, the Tar Heels wasted no time scoring in the second. DellaPeruta's goal gave UNC a lead, though it was short-lived after Wright's strike tied the game in the 61st minute. North Carolina had a number of opportunities to pull ahead in regulation, but each try was shut down by UCLA.
When Turner scored in the 86th minute to give UCLA the lead, there was little time for UNC to make the comeback, which eventually led to the defeat.
Why does it matter?
After dominating opponents on the road, Sunday's matchup gave the Tar Heels their toughest test of the season. The loss was only UNC's second all time at Dorrance Field.
UCLA — who defeated No. 2 Duke earlier in the week — wrapped up its road trip with two impressive victories and will likely be the top team in the nation in the upcoming poll.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will head to Durham to face the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils on Thursday night. The game will begin at 8 p.m.
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