The North Carolina women's soccer team (19-4-1, 8-2 ACC) defeated top-seeded Notre Dame (17-3-3, 7-2-1 ACC) in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship on Saturday night.
The two ACC opponents spent the first 14 minutes of the match feeling each other out. Redshirt first-year forward Ally Sentnor struck first with a shot near the penalty arc that was sent just high of the cross bar. UNC earned two corner kicks in the ensuing action, but neither resulted in a shot on goal.
In the 22nd minute, central defensive midfielder Libby Moore took another deep shot that ricocheted off the crossbar. Sentnor found the rebound several yards out and headed it into the goal for the first crucial score of the game.
The Fighting Irish tried to respond with a counter, but UNC redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen saved a header from senior midfielder Maddie Mercado. Notre Dame had another chance at the equalizer in the 31st minute when a missed pass in the UNC backfield gave Olivia Wingate a free look at the goal, but Allen saved the shot over the crossbar.
UNC had a few more chances towards the end of the half, namely two corner kicks in the 42nd and 45th minutes, but the Tar Heels couldn't come away with a second goal. The two teams went into the break with North Carolina leading, 1-0.
The Tar Heels didn't waste any time in the second half, as junior midfielder Talia DellaPeruta took a shot with her right foot from the top of the 18-yard box that nestled itself into the top of the goal in the 47th minute.
After some sporadic shots over the subsequent 15 minutes, Notre Dame earned some chances with two back-to-back corner kicks. The first resulted in a long shot from senior midfielder Korbin Albert that was high, and the second was cleared out with few issues.
Two more corner kicks in the 65th and 79th minutes gave Notre Dame perhaps its best looks yet, but the first was cleared out by UNC senior defender Tori Hansen and the second resulted in a shot by Mercado that was booted over the top.
Who stood out?
Sentnor continued her dominant tournament run, with her fifth goal in four tournament games. DellaPeruta has also had an impressive postseason showing since returning to the starting lineup, scoring her third goal of the tournament.
The entire UNC midfield, even without injured star Sam Meza, did a solid job of maintaining possession and containing Notre Dame's most dangerous weapons. Korbin Albert, ACC Midfielder of the Year and Notre Dame's leading scorer, was held to just one shot on goal.
When was it decided?
It seemed as if Notre Dame earned a penalty kick in the 84th minute after a whistle was blown inside the 18-yard box, but the referee signaled a corner kick that was unfruitful yet again. The Fighting Irish had several more looks in the waning minutes, but UNC fended off their attack to secure the victory.
Why does it matter?
UNC and Notre Dame did not meet in the regular season, but the Tar Heels finished ahead of the Fighting Irish in the conference standings and made it further in the ACC Tournament. Being the one- and two-seeds in their quadrant, this was a highly anticipated matchup for both teams.
After last season's disappointment, in which UNC lost in the first round of the tournament for the first time in program history, the Tar Heels return to the College Cup with an opportunity to win their first national title since 2012.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play the winner of 1-seed Florida State and 3-seed Arkansas in the College Cup in Cary, N.C. on Dec. 2.
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