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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC concedes late-game goal against Duke, earning fifth draw of season

UNC redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emmie Allen (32) saves a ball in the game against the Duke Blue Devils at Koskinen Stadium, Durham, NC, on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.

You’ve heard this story before. It happened just two weeks ago against Florida State.

No. 1 North Carolina women’s soccer is up by a goal and there’s not much time left on the clock — all the Tar Heels need to do is find a way to hold the ball.

Against No. 22 Duke on Saturday, UNC failed to do that. Instead, the Tar Heels booted the ball down the field multiple times, gifting the Blue Devils more attacking opportunities. In the 90th minute, Duke capitalized, tying the game 1-1 and signaling the second late-game breakdown from the nation’s top-ranked team in just a two-week span.

While the Tar Heels are still undefeated, this is notably the first season in program history that the Tar Heels have recorded five draws.

“[The Florida State game,] the NCAA championship game last year – we can sort of add all those different things up,” head coach Anson Dorrance said. “This is becoming a theme that we don’t want to keep repeating.”

As Duke’s Cameron Roller looked towards the goal, she found her teammate Kat Rader unmarked in the middle of the box. Rader headed the ball past redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emmie Allen, and a minute later, the dark blue scoreboard in the corner of Koskinen Stadium reflected the final score: 1-1.

Up until that point, Allen was having, arguably, her best game of the year. The High Point, N.C. native faced consistent pressure from the Blue Devils, recording four saves to tie her season high.  

Yet, her decision-making played a part in Duke’s last-minute goal.

With just over two minutes remaining, Allen corralled a Blue Devils free kick. Seeing Duke goalkeeper Leah Freeman hustling to get back to her goal, she sensed an opportunity to double down on North Carolina’s lead. 

Allen kicked the ball to the middle of the field, but the Blue Devils grabbed possession. After that, Duke kept the offensive pressure coming, eventually breaking through.

“She’s a good goalkeeper, I certainly trust her,” Dorrance said. “Obviously she’s gotta learn how to burn the clock better.”

Even before that, the Tar Heels had a chance to put away the game.

With just under 12 minutes remaining, Roller fouled graduate forward Isabel Cox in the box, gifting North Carolina a penalty kick. When senior forward Avery Patterson stepped up to take the penalty, Freeman guessed perfectly and smothered the ball, keeping Duke in the game.

Since Tori Hansen — UNC’s go-to player for penalty shots last season — was drafted by the NWSL, North Carolina has struggled to convert spot kicks.

The Tar Heels have had four different players take penalty kicks this season, and have only recorded one goal in four attempts. In 2022, UNC was 5-5 with all attempts taken by Hansen. Before this season, North Carolina hadn't missed a penalty kick since 2019, and the Tar Heels hadn't missed three penalty kicks in a single season since 2018.

Dorrance acknowledged this on Sunday, saying that the Tar Heels simply “gotta do a better job,” but he didn’t seem too concerned. He said games like this are why UNC is playing a tough schedule — to get the team prepared for the NCAA Tournament and to work out any areas where the team might be exposed.

With two top-25 matchups on the horizon against No. 17 Wake Forest and No. 11 Notre Dame, time is running out for North Carolina to patch up any weaknesses it has.

Penalty kicks are often a thing of chance. But late-game management? 

If the Tar Heels want to win national title No. 23 in ‘23, this needs to be the last chapter in the book of mismanagement.


@dthsports |

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