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UNC women's soccer struggles to convert opportunities against Wisconsin

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UNC freshman forward Olivia Thomas (20) dribbles during the women’s soccer game against Wisconsin on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC tied Wisconsin 0-0.

For the second time this season, the No. 3 UNC women’s soccer team found itself in a scoreless draw — this time against Wisconsin at Dorrance Field on Thursday.

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Ally Sentnor was an offensive force all game, tallying four shots — including one on goal that came in the last five minutes. Despite this one last chance to score, the Tar Heels couldn’t convert.

A week ago, North Carolina finished 0-0 against a different Big Ten opponent in No. 8 Penn State. But this tie didn’t feel the same to head coach Anson Dorrance.

“Penn State’s definitely a better team," he said. "So we have to credit them in that game."

However, Dorrance was sure to praise Wisconsin’s defense, specifically goalkeeper Erin McKinney, who saved all eight of UNC’s shots on goal.

“I think they had a plexiglass barrier in front of their goal," he joked. "I gotta walk over there and see if it’s still there."

'Plexiglass barrier' was an apt description for Wisconsin's goalie box, considering the number of close opportunities that failed to find the back of the net on Thursday night. 

Having seen Wisconsin’s performance on the pitch, Dorrance thinks future opponents will continue to play with a similar strategy to contain UNC's attack.

“When another team looks at our roster, they’re gonna say let’s try to get as many players behind the ball as often as possible," Dorrance said. "Maybe eventually, we’ll play a team that decides to cross (midfield)."

Wisconsin only recorded one shot in the 61st minute, which was saved by redshirt sophomore Emmie Allen.

Dorrance also pointed out his team’s lack of enthusiasm in the first half, ultimately crediting the reserve players for turning around the momentum of the game. He thought the reserve players in the first half were able to play with a better rhythm than the starters, creating key opportunities which demonstrated the roster's depth.

Another standout was first-year forward Olivia Thomas, who continued to show promise following her first career goal against California this past weekend. 

Though both Thomas and Sentnor’s offensive efforts came up short on the scoring front, both players expressed enthusiasm about the team's potential. 

“I think it’s definitely coming together and I’m excited to see some goals in the future,” Sentnor said. 

After just her third college game, Thomas noted her adjustments to playing with such talented older players. As Dorrance continues to praise her and the rest of North Carolina’s talented recruiting class — a highly-ranked 2023 class of six prep athletes — Thomas is focused on gaining confidence.

Before each game, the first-year writes the word “breathe” on her wrist tape.

“I’m still learning and trying new things and the girls are coaching me on the field," Thomas said. "With each game, we progressively get better."

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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