North Carolina women’s soccer has a secret weapon.
It’s not Ally Sentnor. The redshirt sophomore forward's talent has been on display all season, punishing anyone who dares give her space. It’s not the defense, either. Opposing offenses have been well aware of it as soon as they cross over midfield.
Instead, it’s the seven or so players that take the field in the last 15 minutes of the first half and the middle 15 minutes of the second half. The reserve unit, or the “game changers” as head coach Anson Dorrance likes to call them — a phrase he said he stole from the national team.
“I think that’s a great description of this particular reserve unit that we have because they do change the game," Dorrance told The Daily Tar Heel on Nov. 18.
In Sunday’s 1-0 win against Texas Tech in the third round of the NCAA tournament, that’s exactly what the reserve unit did: change the game. Each time Dorrance called upon the platoon of players, they changed the game's trajectory. Against a Red Raider squad that hadn’t lost at home all season and hadn’t allowed a goal at home since Aug. 31, four of UNC's seven shots on goal came from reserves — a group Dorrance has previously called the "secret sauce that allows this team to keep winning.”
"There are players strewn throughout that reserve team that can change a game,” Dorrance said.
There was no bigger moment for the game changers than with less than 19 minutes left. North Carolina was knocking on the door with its well-rested reserves in the game. Meanwhile, Texas Tech was growing restless on the offensive end, still yet to record a shot on goal, something would have to change.
The Tar Heels found their answer when sophomore forward Maddie Dahlien’s shot was blocked and found its way to the feet of Sentnor on the right side of the box. Sentnor surveyed her options and found junior midfielder Bella Sember at the top of the box.
Sember juked out her defender and fired a rocket into the right side of the net to put North Carolina in the lead, changing the game just under eight minutes into her second-half shift with a goal Dorrance called "phenomenal."