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'A game-changer': Sentnor leads UNC women's soccer to win in first round of NCAA Tournament

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UNC redshirt sophomore midfielder Ally Sentnor (21) drives the ball towards the goal during the first-round NCAA Division I game against Towson on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC wins 3-1.

As Ally Sentnor walked off Dorrance Field, a group of fans shouted, "You’re the GOAT." 

The redshirt sophomore forward just laughed.

Later, when asked about her weak-footed goal to give North Carolina the lead in an eventual 3-1 victory over Towson to kickoff NCAA Tournament play, Sentnor instead wanted to talk about the play from sophomore midfielder Kate Faasse to set up the goal.

“She worked her butt to get to that end line and keep that ball in, so all credit to her,” Sentnor said. “I think just the unselfishness to cut that back was just incredible as well.”

Despite her deflection of praise, Sentnor was arguably the key factor in the win on Friday, recording a goal and an assist to help UNC overcome an initial 1-0 deficit. After Bella Sember tied the game up, Sentnor scored a left-footed goal in the 60th minute, putting the Tar Heels ahead. Later, in the 84th minute, Avery Patterson extended the lead to 3-1 with a header from Sentnor's corner kick.

UNC sophomore forward Ally Sentnor (21) hugs teammates after scoring UNC's second goal against Towson in the first round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023 at Dorrance Field. UNC won 3-1.

Outside of UNC’s first-round victory, Sentnor’s impact on the team this season has been evident — North Carolina is 8-1-2 when Sentnor has recorded a point, but 3-0-6 when she's been held in check.

“I think I just go into a different mindset,” Sentnor said. “At the end of the day, my eyes are on the goal and once again just doing the best I can do for the team.”

Head coach Anson Dorrance repeatedly mentioned the word "committed" when asked about Sentnor. Whether it was discussing her commitment to her craft, to recovering from an ACL or to the team, Dorrance praised the Hanson, Mass. native for her work ethic.

“When people look at these great players they say, ‘Oh she’s got so much natural talent.’ Well you know what, yes, she’s talented, but everyone on our roster is talented,” Dorrance said. “The thing that separates Ally is her commitment to her craft. She wakes up every morning and she sorts out ‘What am I going to do today to get better?’”

UNC redshirt sophomore midfielder Ally Sentnor (21) looks for someone to pass to during the first-round NCAA Division I game against Towson on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC wins 3-1.

After scoring a goal against N.C. State on Sept. 30, Sentnor was held pointless for the next four games — a stretch in which the Tar Heels went 1-0-3, including three straight 1-1 draws. Then, on Oct. 22, Sentnor recorded an assist against Syracuse and has since parlayed that into a four-game streak of recording at least a point. Friday was the second game this season in which Sentnor has recorded three points.

As North Carolina continues down its path in the NCAA Tournament, looking to make it back to the College Cup Final after falling short last year, it's safe to say that as Sentnor goes, so go the Tar Heels.

“She’s just a rockstar,” redshirt senior defender Maycee Bell said. “Every time she gets the ball, there’s an opportunity to score. Teams have to mark her, teams have to know where she’s at, at all times. Even sometimes when she’s not getting the ball, she’s making other people open by doing that. She’s just a game-changer, to be honest.”

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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