The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

No. 2 UNC women's soccer opens up ACC play with 1-0 win over Virginia Tech

UNC sophomore defender/midfielder Emerson Elgin (6) dribbles the ball against Virginia Tech on Friday, Sep. 15, 2023, at Dorrance Field.

Picked to win the ACC in the preseason coaches poll, the No. 2 North Carolina women’s soccer team (6-0-3, 1-0 ACC) began conference play with a tightly contested 1-0 victory against Virginia Tech (3-3-3, 0-1 ACC) on Friday afternoon at Dorrance Field.

The Tar Heels concluded a non-conference gauntlet last Sunday with a 1-1 draw against then-No. 12 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In that stretch, UNC outshot non-conference opponents 180-43 while conceding only four goals.

Senior forward Avery Patterson entered the match leading the team in goals with four. She was named ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 12. 

The match started fast with both teams looking to attack. Neither side was able to take control, and the game was played on both ends.

Chances came in quick succession for the Hokies in the middle of the first half. After a foul by UNC senior midfielder Sam Meza in the 20th minute, the Hokies played a long ball into the box before peppering the UNC goal post. Virginia Tech recorded four shots in the Tar Heels’ box in less than a minute, but the UNC back line stood its ground.

North Carolina struggled to create promising scoring opportunities in the first half. Shots on goal by first-year forwards Evelyn Shores and Mia Oliaro caused little trouble for Virginia Tech goalkeeper Alia Skinner. Virginia Tech outshot UNC in the first half, 8-4. It was the first time the Tar Heels were outshot in a half all season.

Head coach Anson Dorrance said that his assistants, Damon Nahas and Nathan Thackeray, made a tactical adjustment at halftime that allowed UNC to grow into the game and control the play. The Tar Heels changed to a 4-1-3-2 formation for the second period.

“This team beat us last year,” Dorrance said after the match. “It’s not like they didn’t have the talent to challenge us. In the first half, they did – they made it hard for us. So that tactical adjustment that [Nahas] made at the half was significant.”

Heading into the second frame, UNC started to control possession and push the Hokies back more. A big chance for the Tar Heels to take the lead came in the 57th minute when graduate midfielder Emily Moxley received a square ball in the six-yard box. However, Moxley couldn’t gain proper footing, and the match remained level.

UNC grad-student defender/midfielder Emily Moxley (8) strikes the ball against Virginia Tech on Friday, Sep. 15, 2023, at Dorrance Field.

The Tar Heels earned their first corner of the game in the 66th minute after redshirt sophomore Ally Sentnor dashed into the box from the left and had her shot blocked. The Hokies cleared from the corner initially, but the ball was sent back in, pinballing around in the box before finding Shores, who slotted home her third goal of the season.

UNC celebrates after scoring against Virginia Tech on Friday, Sep. 15, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC beat VT 1-0.

North Carolina began to dominate play after gaining a 1-0 lead. After a difficult first half for UNC, Virginia Tech failed to record a single shot, while the Tar Heels recorded 13.

“The first half is obviously frustrating – not having many shots on goal, not having many opportunities,” Patterson said. “But we are good enough individually that once we do start playing together as a team, whether that be in the first half or in the second half, or hopefully for the whole game, it’ll come together and we’ll get opportunities.”

Patterson was everywhere for the Tar Heels. She played wide left but also dropped deep to link up play, making diagonal runs touchline to touchline on several occasions. Shores provided a spark off the bench with the decisive goal and two shots on frame.

Despite a six-save effort from Skinner, the Hokies could not find a way through the Tar Heels' defense in the second half.

“We have class players on both sides of the field,” Meza said. “Defensively, everybody wants to score on North Carolina. That’s a known thing. We make it aware that that’s the standard. Any shot is blocked. Any one [versus] one, keep your feet. It’s just the standard.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

UNC travels to Charlottesville on Thursday, where it will face No. 20 Virginia at 7 p.m.

@dthsports |