Following a recent offensive dry spell and a 2-1 loss to Virginia Tech last week, the North Carolina women’s soccer team knew it needed to return to Chapel Hill and make a statement against Pittsburgh.
Deviating from the team’s usual norm of tactical buildup and dominating possession, the Tar Heels used clinical shooting and creative goal-scoring opportunities from the entire lineup to break the game open and pick up a much-needed 4-0 win over the Panthers.
“That’s attacking with variety,” head coach Anson Dorrance said. “We don’t want to have a predictable attack because then a team can basically sort out how to defend, so the variety in which we scored tonight I think is fantastic for us."
Entering the contest, Pittsburgh’s defense was in top form. The Panthers had only allowed five goals in their five-game winning streak, which helped them catapult to No. 2 in the RPI rankings – a metric that determines the overall statistical dominance of a team. On Thursday, the Tar Heels picked apart the unit with ease, registering 22 shots with 10 coming on goal.
Although four different players found the back of the net, it was junior midfielder Sam Meza’s strike that set the tone for the evening.
Following a six-game scoring drought, Meza admitted to the challenge of finding the perfect balance between setting up teammates and looking for opportunities of her own. But when the Tar Heels needed an offensive breakthrough in the 12th minute, she chose the latter option and buried a strike from just outside the box into the bottom right corner.
“Ally (Sentnor) was there, and I screamed as loud as I could because I thought I had a pretty good angle,” Meza said. “She listened to my voice, and I took a touch and tried to whip it in, and it was kind of like slow motion.”
While Meza’s goal might’ve given her some reassurance to her scoring ability, two other Tar Heels experienced raptures in their own right.
Just weeks removed from representing Team USA at the Women's U-20 World Championships, junior forward Talia DellaPeruta was sidelined with a knee injury that caused her to miss the team's first 10 games. She worked her way back to the pitch on Sept. 25 and was a substitute in the team’s last two contests.