The No. 2 North Carolina women's soccer team (1-0-1, 0-0 ACC) defeated California (0-2, 0-0 PAC-12), 3-1, in its first home game of the 2023 season at Dorrance Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Tar Heels showcased their skill early on with impressive ball control from redshirt senior defender Maycee Bell and calculated passes from redshirt sophomore midfielder Emerson Elgin, creating an opportunity for senior forward Avery Patterson to score by the third minute.
UNC’s ease on offense was a stark difference from its last game.
On Friday, UNC was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw against Penn State. Dorrance said that, when the Tar Heels were able to convert in Sunday’s game, the relief was palpable.
“We’re a good team,” Dorrance said. “It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when.”
Cal forward Karlie Lema tied the game 10 minutes after Patterson’s goal.
UNC amped up its offensive cadence in response by driving eight shots past California’s defense in the next 25 minutes. Then, in the 41st minute, following a clearance by first-year forward Mia Oliaro, first-year midfielder Melina Rebimbas’ shot found the back of the net, closing the first half with a 2-1 Tar Heel lead.
UNC didn't slow down coming out of the break, with first-year forward Olivia Thomas cruising by California's defense for a goal off a setup by redshirt sophomore midfielder Ally Sentnor and graduate defender Emily Moxley. The Golden Bear offense attempted to get in rhythm, but UNC's smothering defense held California to just one shot each half. From there, the Tar Heels dominated possession to close out the game with a convincing 3-1 win.
The first-year Tar Heels lived up to the hype that came with their No. 1 recruiting class ranking at their first home game. Oliaro provided meaningful minutes on defense, along with Rebimbas and Thomas scoring their first goals as Tar Heels.