Following a one-year hiatus, the North Carolina women’s soccer team is back in the ACC Tournament.
After failing to qualify for the event for the first time in school history last fall, the Tar Heels proceeded to stumble in the opening round of the ensuing NCAA Tournament, marking another first for the storied program.
This team enters the postseason with momentum, finishing the regular season as the top seed in the ACC and winning six straight matches. In the upcoming tournament, the Tar Heels will face some of the best teams in the conference with the hopes of entering the NCAA Tournament in top form.
On Thursday, UNC will head to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary to face the winner of a Duke-Virginia matchup in the semifinals. Here’s a look at the team’s path to the program’s 23rd tournament title:
Despite boasting one of the best attack units in the country and averaging 2.44 goals per game, the Tar Heels’ have occasionally struggled with holding leads in the second half. The UNC defense has only allowed 10 goals this season, yet eight of those have come after the break, which was a difference-maker in the team’s three losses.
Since falling on the road to Virginia Tech on Oct. 1, the back line has improved during the team’s six-game winning streak, surrendering only one goal to then-No. 4 Florida State.
Although the team has dealt with numerous injuries to its defensive stalwarts, seniors Maggie Pierce, Tori Hansen and Julia Dorsey have stepped in to shut down offenses. First-year Tessa Dellarose has also been a consistent contributor at the fullback position, starting in every game this season.
At times this fall, the Tar Heels’ offense has acted as its best defense, as the team frequently maintains possession in the opposing team’s attacking third. But as the games become more meaningful and any defensive lapse could make or break a season, the unit must continue to hold steady so the team does not have to rely too heavily on its attack group.