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'We're very concerned': UNC women's soccer suffers first loss of season in ACC Tournament

20231029_Peng_wsoc-unc-pitt
UNC sophomore forward Tori Dellaperuta (9) winds up during the first round of the ACC Women's Championship against Pittsburgh at Dorrance Field on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. UNC lost to Pittsburgh 2-1.

It had to happen at some point.

Amid the 1-1 draws and the offensive lulls, it became clear that it was a matter of when, not if the North Carolina women’s soccer team would suffer its first loss. In the first round of the ACC tournament on Sunday, their scoring issues persisted, and the Tar Heels fell 2-1 to Pittsburgh in overtime.

In the past, head coach Anson Dorrance has been able to remain optimistic despite his team's inability to find the back of the net. However, after Sunday, he had a grimmer tone about the topic.

“We’re very concerned,” Dorrance said. “We’ve gotta do a better job finishing the chances we create.”

After UNC tied 1-1 with Boston College to end the regular season, Dorrance said that overtime would “solve the conundrum of tying games.” When regulation ended 1-1 against Pitt, North Carolina was finally forced to find its offense if the Tar Heels wanted to advance in the ACC Tournament.

Despite recording five shots in the first overtime period, the Tar Heels weren’t able to put one past the goalkeeper, while the Panthers capitalized on their sole shot.

North Carolina just couldn’t get it done.

Redshirt sophomore forward Ally Sentnor put the game in her own hands and dribbled the ball into the box from the midfield just to have a Panther defender slide in at the last second. UNC sophomore forward Tori DellaPeruta got two one-on-one chances with Pitt's goalkeeper just to have her shot saved. 

While DellaPeruta certainly isn't the only potential goal scorer on the field for UNC, she’s had the most chances of any Tar Heel in the past month. The forward has tallied 11 shots on goal since she returned from Italy, playing her first game back against N.C. State on Sept. 30.

But since that game, DellaPeruta hasn’t recorded a goal.

In the last two games, DellaPeruta has missed numerous opportunities when North Carolina was tied. Against Boston College, she skied an open header over the goal in the 80th minute. Then, against Pitt in regulation, she shot two one-on-one opportunities over the goal.

“Honestly, she’s getting into good positions,” Dorrance said. “When there’s a good chance created, it oftentimes has to do with her making a good run and setting herself up well. For some reason, she’s just snake-bit in the penalty box because she had our best chances to finish.”

Losing early presents an opportunity for North Carolina, though. In the week between the Tar Heels’ first-round ACC Tournament exit and the NCAA Selection Show, the team will have a much-awaited break from scheduled play.

“The plus [of getting eliminated early] is we get to train a bit,” Dorrance said. “Usually, if you look at a typical soccer season, in general, we’ve got two games a week. There isn’t really a training platform. We’ve been given a training platform now. So we can sort of get to work and train a bit and see if we can start to solve some of the issues we have in goal finishing.”

For a week, the Tar Heels won’t know who they’re playing next, allowing them to solely focus on the issue at hand – their struggle scoring goals.

“I do think that we’re going to use it as motivation,” Sentnor said. “We’re gonna use it to hopefully propel us through the [NCAA] tournament. We hadn’t had a loss yet, so it’s just another resilient block that we’re gonna use to move forward.”

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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