The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

Preview: UNC women's soccer kicks off NCAA Tournament run with home match against ODU

UNC junior forward Sam Meza (1) walks back to the locker room after UNC's 1-2 loss in the women's soccer ACC finals against FSU on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Buy Photos UNC junior forward Sam Meza (1) walks back to the locker room after UNC's 1-2 loss in the women's soccer ACC finals against FSU on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Following an early exit in the Women's College Cup last year — the program's first-ever first-round NCAA Tournament loss the North Carolina women's soccer team is hungry for redemption. 

UNC heads into this year's tournament as a No. 2 seed after rallying to a 15-4 overall record and a share of first place in the ACC. Such success now pits them against the unranked Old Dominion Monarchs in a first-round bout at Dorrance Field.

Here are three keys to victory that UNC must hone in to come out victorious on Saturday:

Keep the offense powerful

The Tar Heels must find a powerful and consistent offense against a solid ODU defense. The Monarchs have one of the better scoring defenses in the Sun Belt Conference, allowing an average of just under one goal per game.

UNC will have the challenge of getting around senior midfielder Ece Turkoglu who has been a key for the Old Dominion defense. However, she will likely meet her match with UNC's junior midfielder Sam Meza. With Turkoglu standing at 5-foot-7, she has been a towering force in the air for the Monarchs.

However, their defense has yet to encounter an opponent with a high-ranking scoring offense. The Tar Heels average 2.25 goals per game, good for the 21st in the country. After a shaky ACC Tournament performance in which UNC scored just one goal in two games against Duke and Florida State, look for the Tar Heels to come out firing.

Junior forward Avery Patterson leads the Tar Heels in scoring. Still, head coach Anson Dorrance will likely try to work in other offensive pieces like First Team All-ACC selection Ally Sentnor and first-year right wing Maddie Dahlien.

Battle for a full 90 minutes

An emphasis throughout the Tar Heels' season has been finishing strong. After allowing late-game goals in losses against UCLA and Virginia, the Tar Heels focused more on locking down opponents in the final 45 minutes. This will be vital for the matchup against a team with a similar late-game falloff. 

In their recent Sun Belt Conference championship match against James Madison, the Monarchs blew a 3-2 lead, allowing JMU to send the game into overtime. They struggled after their strong start, but ODU eventually took the title.

While UNC will look to Patterson and Sentnor to get out to an early lead, senior defender Tori Hansen and her stout back line will look to suffocate ODU's offense, led by fifth-year forward Carla Morich.

Take advantage of the home turf

Five of the Monarchs' eight losses have been away games. The Tar Heels must pounce on this opportunity to feed off of the energy from Dorrance Field, where a passionate home crowd will make their presence felt.

Old Dominion has yet to play a team up to the caliber of UNC. North Carolina will look to outclass and overwhelm the Monarchs to set them on a path toward a deeper tournament run.

Despite Old Dominion's underdog status, UNC cannot overlook the ability of ODU. UNC must focus on strong play from start to finish as the team looks to capture the program's first national championship since 2012.

@sydneybeyer

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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