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Patterson connects with Dahlien twice to lead UNC women's soccer past BYU in round of 16

UNC senior forward Emily Moxley (8) passes the ball during the women's soccer game against BYU on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Dorrance Field. UNC beat BYU 3-2.

Avery Patterson may not have found the back of the net in North Carolina's 3-2 victory over BYU, but UNC's leading goalscorer found plenty of other ways to help her team win on Sunday.

The junior assisted on all three of the Tar Heels' goals in the round-of-16 matchup at Dorrance Field, helping propel her team to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship. 

Earlier in the season, UNC's leading goalscorer said she may not have been so selfless.

Head coach Anson Dorrance said Patterson has always been extremely talented, but the next step in her development was to become more of a team-oriented player. As the left wingback in UNC's new 3-5-2 formation, Patterson has had plenty of opportunities to help out her teammates on both ends of the field. 

"Her ability to score goals is certainly unique and very positive, but her game intelligence isn't anywhere near her goalscoring ability, which is sort of a counterintuitive statement," Dorrance said. "What she was doing today, and what she's been doing the last a month or so, is her decision-making is getting better and better and better."

Patterson helped put UNC on the board in the 13th minute after finding senior forward Isabel Cox in space. Cox then passed a through ball to a sprinting Talia DellaPeruta, whose one-on-one opportunity rolled past the keeper for the Tar Heels' first goal of the afternoon.

Several minutes later, BYU answered with a counter-attack to tie the game, and from there, the teams ended the first half with relatively even shot and possession numbers.

Coming out of the break, UNC knew it needed to ramp up the pressure. The Tar Heels did just that, taking the first nine shots of the second half and scoring two goals to go up 3-1. Behind those two scores was Patterson and first-year forward Maddie Dahlien, who recorded the first brace of her college career.

"I think that's just our strength, applying that pressure and making them suffocate defensively," Dahlien said. "And so that was our job coming right out of the half, to make sure to kill the game early on."

In the 58th minute, senior Emily Moxley sent a long pass from the right wing that Patterson met in the air. The header attempt was saved, but Dahlien was there to clean it up and send the ball into the right side of the goal.

Seven minutes later, senior defender Julia Dorsey sent a cross to Patterson, who connected with Dahlien to slot home UNC's third goal.

"I knew that Avery's obviously willing to shoot, but also from the first goal (I knew) to be ready for  either the cutback or deflection," Dahlien said.

According to Dorrance, Dahlien serves as one of the team's "14 starters". The young forward, along with senior midfielders Maggie Pierce and Aleigh Gambone, split equal playing time with their starting counterparts.

Dorrance said that his team's advantage off the bench is what helped them power through BYU, who seemed to wear out down the stretch. After the Cougars' Allie Fryer scored an impressive goal from outside the 18-yard box in the 69th minute, UNC locked down to hold onto its lead and come out with the victory.

One player that didn't leave the field in the second half though, was Patterson. After sparking her team's offense in the opening minutes of the half, Patterson helped her team battle out the waning minutes in the midfield and prevent a BYU comeback.

"She's a brilliant dueler, she's great in the air, she's great in the one v. one duels, offensively and defensively, but what she's doing now (is) she's learning to use her teammates," Dorrance said. "And so there's a multiplication factor for her when she uses her teammates."


@dthsports |

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Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.