The third-seeded UNC women’s soccer team (13-2-8, 5-0-5 ACC) built a three-goal advantage in the first 20 minutes but then lost it in the second half, losing 4-3 to No.1 seed BYU (20-2-3, 7-0-3 Big 12) in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on a snowy Friday night in Provo, Utah.
This was the second season in a row the Tar Heels and Cougars have met in the NCAA Tournament. UNC knocked off BYU in the third round, 3-2, last year in Chapel Hill behind a brace from now-sophomore forward Maddie Dahlien and three assists delivered by now-senior forward Avery Patterson. North Carolina last visited Provo in 2012 when Tar Heel legend Crystal Dunn scored a decisive, double-overtime goal to send UNC to the College Cup.
Something had to give Friday, as BYU entered the match leading the nation in goals, while the Tar Heels hadn’t allowed a shot on goal in their previous two games.
Redshirt sophomore forward Ally Sentnor recorded the Tar Heels first shot on goal in the opening minutes, winning the first corner of the match. She then jogged over to the far corner flag before delivering an inch-perfect cross right to the head of redshirt senior defender Maycee Bell, who guided her looping header over a crowd of Cougars and into the back of the net. UNC led 1-0 one minute and 51 seconds after the kickoff.
And then it was Sentnor springing into action again, doubling the Tar Heels' advantage in the ninth minute. She received the ball on the edge of the box and cut inside on her left foot, maneuvering past Cougar defenders. Her shot took a deflection, giving BYU goalkeeper Lynette Hernaez no chance.
And then Sentnor again.
This time, it was a set piece from just outside the box. She hit a knuckling rocket over the wall, whistling through the Utah snow towards Hernaez. The pace of the shot was too much for the Cougar keeper, and she couldn’t keep it out.
BYU had a good chance to cut into the Tar Heels’ three-goal lead in the 25th minute, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emmie Allen made a great save, going down fast to her right to stop forward Ellie Walbruch’s shot with a strong palm at full stretch.
The Cougars grew into the game late into the half, but the UNC back line made things difficult, blocking two BYU shots that had eyes for goal. Allen made another save in the 43rd minute on a Walbruch skipping effort from a long-distance free kick, and UNC took a 3-0 lead into the break.