<![CDATA[The Daily Tar Heel: Sports]]> Fri, 09 Dec 2022 15:23:30 -0500 Fri, 09 Dec 2022 15:23:30 -0500 SNworks CEO 2022 The Daily Tar Heel <![CDATA[Defense fuels 64-42 win over UNCW for No. 8 North Carolina women's basketball ]]> On Wednesday, the No. 8 North Carolina women's basketball team led from nearly wire to wire in a 64-42 win over UNC Wilmington at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill.

What happened?

The Tar Heels controlled the tip, and junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams nailed a three from the top of the key in the first possession of the game. Four different Tar Heels scored in the opening four minutes of the game: a layup by junior forward Anya Poole, a three from junior guard Deja Kelly and a turnaround mid-range jumper from junior Alyssa Ustby.

The Seahawks answered the call each time the Tar Heels scored. UNCW crashed the offensive glass early, scoring six of its first nine points in the paint. The Tar Heels headed into the under-5 timeout of the first quarter with a 10-9 advantage.

UNCW's defensive energy helped keep the game within reach early. However, a from-behind block from sophomore Destiny Adams helped stop a three-point attempt from UNCW that would have tied the game. Todd-Williams netted her second three of the game as time expired in the first quarter. The six-point swing gave the Tar Heels an 18-12 advantage to close the first.

Three minutes into the second quarter, back-to-back lay-ins from Adams and senior Eva Hodgson forced a UNCW timeout and boosted North Carolina's lead to double-digits for the first time in the contest.

Ustby's drives proved difficult to defend for the Seahawks in the first half, and her put-back layup with just three seconds left in the half extended the Tar Heel lead to 13 at the break as they led 35-22. Ustby was the first player in the game to reach double-figure scoring.

Capitalizing off of UNCW's turnovers with quick fast break pushes is what got the Tar Heels rolling toward the end of the first half. The Seahawks committed nine first-half turnovers, which led to 10 fastbreak points for the Tar Heels.

The Tar Heels found success attacking the paint in the third quarter. Kelly and Todd-Williams each joined Ustby in double-figures as North Carolina grew its lead to 21 with six minutes remaining in the third. The Seahawks never waved the white flag though. They narrowed the Tar Heels lead to 16 by the end of the third quarter, 53-37.

Both teams struggled to score down the stretch in the fourth quarter with North Carolina scoring just nine 11 fourth-quarter points, and the Seahawks scoring just five. The Tar Heels claimed a 64-42 victory over the Seahawks to advance to 7-1.

Who stood out?

Ustby was stellar all night long. Her interior dominance was the highlight of a Tar Heel offense that got most of its work done inside Wednesday night. Her 16 points on 8-10 shooting were a game-high, and she added on 10 rebounds to earn a double-double - her third of the season.

Kelly found herself at the foul line more than any other player Wednesday. Despite being a 75 percent free throw shooter coming into the night, she shot just 1-5 from the charity strike. North Carolina continued its season-long struggle at the line as it shot just 61 percent from the line.

Adams was a defensive spark plug for the Tar Heels, energizing the Tar Heels with timely blocks and defensive stops. Her energy was paramount for a Tar Heel defense that ultimately fueled its victory.

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels created separation toward the end of the second quarter by capitalizing off of UNCW turnovers, building a 13-point lead at the half. The Tar Heels were able to maintain control in the second half, growing its lead to as much as 21.

Why does it matter?

Following two big wins over top-25 opponents at the Phil Knight Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend, the Tar Heels traveled to Bloomington, Ind., where they lost to now-ranked No. 4 Indiana 87-63 last Thursday, Dec. 1.

The win over UNCW demonstrated that the Tar Heels could respond to adversity and follow up a tough loss with stellar play and a determined win.

When do they play next?

Wednesday's game was the first of a three-game home stretch for the Tar Heels who will next play Wofford this Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.


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<![CDATA[UNC field hockey head coach Karen Shelton announces retirement after 42 seasons at North Carolina ]]> On Wednesday, UNC field hockey head coach Karen Shelton met with her team to announce her retirement. Shelton - the winningest coach in the history of collegiate field hockey - has coached at North Carolina for 42 seasons and has led the Tar Heels to an NCAA-record 10 national championships.

"I don't have the words for what it has meant to represent the University of North Carolina for the past 42 years," Shelton said in a press release from the University on Wednesday. "The decision to retire is an extremely difficult one, but I feel like it's the right time, on the heels of an outstanding season."

In her last season at North Carolina, Shelton coached the Tar Heels to a 21-0 record and NCAA Title.

Shelton is leaving UNC after an illustrious career that includes 745 wins and NCAA records in tournament appearances (39), victories (77) and games played (106).

She's also been particularly successful in recent years. Since the completion of Karen Shelton Stadium (Shelton is the only NCAA DI field hockey coach ever to coach in a facility named for her) in 2018, the team has posted a 99-8 record. Of the team's 10 national championships, four have come in 2018 or later.

"Karen Shelton is, quite simply, an icon of Carolina Athletics," UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said in a press release from the University on Wednesday. "Her legacy is more than her phenomenal 10 national championships and 745 victories - it's about the hundreds of women who have gone on to successful lives and careers, and continued to credit her influence many years after playing for her."

As of now, UNC field hockey's next head coach has not been named. The University reported on Wednesday that its "national search for the program's next coach will begin immediately and Shelton will remain the program's head coach until a successor is named."


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UNC field hockey head coach Karen Shelton answers questions at the George J. Sherman Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn., following UNC's win over Northwestern in the 2022 national championship.

<![CDATA[UNC women's soccer reflects on its season, looks ahead to future following title game loss]]> In a game of 90 minutes, 16 seconds may seem trivial. But for the UNC women's soccer team, 16 seconds was the reason they didn't walk off the pitch in Monday's College Cup final as national champions.

In their final scoring opportunity of the contest, the Bruins lobbed a corner into the box. Reilyn Turner tied the game in the waning seconds and the dejected Tar Heels could not recover in the second extra time period.

As the game clock reached zero, the Tar Heels watched on in devastation as UCLA threw on its national championship t-shirts and hoisted the trophy.

"Just to be able to taste that national championship with sixteen seconds left - it's going to be something that is hard to come back from," said junior midfielder Avery Patterson, who scored both of UNC's goals and conceded the game-tying corner kick.

The stunning 3-2 loss put a cap on a sometimes shaky season for UNC. After struggling on offense in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels appeared to find their stride in the final six games of the season.

The game was reminiscent of the first contest between the two squads on Sept. 4. The Tar Heels dominated possession in both games but were unable to hold onto early leads. UNC could not adapt to UCLA's aggressive attack in the second half.

For a team that lost All-Americans Maycee Bell and Sam Meza to injuries, it could not have foreseen reaching the national championship game. Head coach Anson Dorrance credited associate head coach Damon Nahas for the tactical decisions that led to the team's successes.

"We lost our two best players, we're in the College Cup, we've won the first semifinal game - I'm playing with house money," Dorrance said. "This team overachieved in every respect."

In the grand picture of UNC women's soccer, though, any season that does not end in a national championship feels like a let down. The Tar Heels have now lost three championship games in the last five years and have not reached the sport's summit since 2012.

Following the game, UCLA's first-year head coach Margueritte Aozasa recognized UNC's successes over the years.

"That's a program that I think anybody involved in college soccer has always looked up to," she joked. "If I do this for another 25 years with this record, I might catch Anson in terms of his record."

Throughout the long and arduous season, the UNC players developed a powerful bond. Patterson said they will lean on each other through the heartbreak - she and Dorrance said they were especially heartbroken for the seniors.

Dorrance writes letters to his seniors and reads them out in front of the team at the end of each season. He read six of those letters before the semifinal game on Friday, and he read the remaining six before Monday night's contest.

"It's our tradition, and it's a tradition of connection," Dorrance said. "And our incentive in the NCAA Tournament is to send every senior out a winner. And we didn't succeed, but I think we gave it a good shot."

Now, comes the hardest part - building the team back up.

Dorrance is excited about the future of the program and said he will look back on this season with pride. Despite injuries, offensive struggles, and late-game collapses, the Tar Heels reached the pinnacle of the sport. The team was a corner kick away from lifting the prized trophy.

"The way they will look at this is 16 seconds to glory," Dorrance said. "You know what - that is an achievement."


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<![CDATA[UNC on wrong end of improbable comeback as Tar Heels fall just short of national title]]> CARY, N.C. - Anson Dorrance knows the danger of a 2-0 lead.

In his 44 seasons as head coach of the North Carolina women's soccer team, he's seen plenty of them. He's won most of those games. He's lost many others.

He knows the complacency that comes with being two goals ahead can often go awry.

That was certainly the case in Monday night's national championship game against UCLA, in which the Bruins scored the equalizer off a set piece in the 90th minute and went on to win in double overtime, 3-2.

This season's UNC team is all too familiar with blown leads. In September, the Tar Heels lost to Virginia after carrying a 2-0 lead into the half. Against Florida State on Friday, they nearly gave up a 3-0 advantage. In fact, UNC scored the first goal in all five of its losses this season.

"That was probably our Achilles heel this year," Dorrance said. "We were pretty good at scoring goals, pretty good at going up, and then pretty good at not holding on to the lead."

UNC won five hard-fought tournament games to earn a matchup against one-seed UCLA. It was an opportunity for the Tar Heels to get revenge over the Bruins - who handed them their first loss of the season back in September - as well as win UNC's first national championship in a decade.

The first half of the title game was a slow-paced, tactical chess match, but UNC held the advantage in shots and time of possession heading into the break. The Tar Heels broke the lull in the 59th minute as right wingback Emily Moxley connected on a deep cross to junior forward Avery Patterson for a perfectly executed header goal.

When Patterson scored another header 16 minutes later, this time assisted on by sophomore midfielder Emily Colton, The UNC players couldn't help but feel that the championship was within reach.

"At that point, you know, you don't get ahead of yourself but it's hard," Patterson said. "You have to remind yourself to stay locked in."

Following the second goal, the Bruins began pushing the pace and playing with more urgency. UNC hung on for dear life.

UCLA's Lexi Wright cut her team's deficit in half in the 80th minute, cleaning up the rebound after UNC goalkeeper Emmie Allen saved a shot from senior forward Sunshine Fontes. UNC dropped a defender back and tried to play more conservatively, but the Tar Heels were quickly beginning to lose composure.

They were no longer controlling possession as they had for the first three-quarters of the game. Each time UCLA pushed into the attacking third, UNC tried to clear the ball instead of holding on to it and building up possession.

"That sort of panic is what made it difficult for us to hold on to that lead," Dorrance said. "And it sort of excited UCLA, because rather than passing balls and keeping possession like we did so effectively in the first half, we started just trying to bang it out. And that just is not the way to try to manage a lead."

Still, UNC seemed like it had done just enough to hold off the Bruins as the clock ticked below one minute. That was until Patterson conceded a corner kick in the final seconds of the game.

With one last chance to keep the championship dreams alive, UCLA's Ally Lemos took the corner from the right side and placed the ball perfectly so that junior forward Reilyn Turner could finish it in the air. After a push on Allen inside the goal area didn't get called, the buzzer-beating score was confirmed.

"I told the team at halftime we're gonna get our chances and we're going to get a set piece tonight," UCLA head coach Margueritte Aozasa said. "I didn't know it would be such a monumental set piece. But that one will go down in history."

The Tar Heels never seemed comfortable in the overtime periods as UCLA rode the momentum of its second goal. Fifth-year midfielder Maricarmen Reyes netted the game-winner in the 107th minute, finishing the rebound off a saved shot from forward Ally Cook.

UNC tried to respond in a last-ditch effort to force penalty kicks, but UCLA wouldn't relinquish its first and only lead of the game. As the final horn sounded, reality sank in and several UNC players sank to the pitch in anguish.

Dorrance knows those emotions well. He's done a whole lot of winning on college soccer's biggest stage, but he's also endured his fair share of losses. That's just the sort of thing you get used to with four decades of sustained excellence.

But Dorrance also knows that experience isn't quite the same for the players on the field. There's a solid chance that he will be back at the College Cup at some point. Many of his players won't have that same opportunity.

There's a painful beauty to it. The raw emotions of victory and defeat, the uncertainty of what the future holds - those are what keep Dorrance addicted to the college game.

"There's nothing you can really say to assuage (the players') pain," he said. "But, you know, this is what I guess the best parts of athletics are all about. I mean, you really get to feel life in moments like that."


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<![CDATA[Late goals from UCLA doom UNC women's soccer in 3-2 national championship loss]]> The North Carolina women's soccer team fell to UCLA, 3-2, in the national championship game on Monday evening.

What happened?

The Tar Heels came out in the 3-5-2 formation they adopted early in the tournament. They controlled the ball early but were unable to break UCLA's defense. Sophomore midfielder Emily Colton produced the first shot on goal for the Tar Heels, but the boot came from beyond the penalty area and was saved comfortably by UCLA's Lauren Brzykcy.

UNC's first true scoring opportunity came in the 21st minute. Off a free kick from junior midfielder Avery Patterson, the ball looped into the box and grazed off senior defender Julia Dorsey's foot. With a defender to her back, Dorsey could not produce enough power on the shot to sneak it past Brzykcy.

The sluggish first half for both offenses was capped off by back-to-back corner kicks for the Bruins. The second attempt came from UNC redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen's right side, but she climbed high to make the catch on the lofting ball. Outshooting the Bruins 5-3, the Tar Heels entered the break tied at zero.

UNC continued to stay in possession of the ball early in the second half. A foul by UCLA's Jackie Gilday led to an opportunity that was headed away by the Bruins.

In the 59th minute, the Tar Heels finally broke through. With the ball at her feet near the right corner, senior forward Emily Moxley delivered a perfect cross into the center of the box. Splitting two Bruins defenders, the ball landed directly on Patterson's head and was delivered into the back of the net. UNC's season leader in goals came through to put the Tar Heels up one.

The defensive battle that characterized the game opened up with the goal. Four shots came in quick succession for the Bruins, all deflected by the UNC back line. On the other end, UNC produced opportunities of its own.

A shot by junior midfielder Talia Dellaperuta was saved by Brzykcy in the 73rd minute, but Patterson doubled Tar Heels' lead two minutes later. A cross into the box found her head once again, and she floated the ball into the back of the net.

Just as the Tar Heels were ready to celebrate a national championship, the Bruins produced a run of their own. In the 80th minute, UCLA's Lexi Wright scored a goal to trim the deficit, and with 30 seconds to go, a last-gasp corner kick attempt was delivered toward the back-left post by Ally Lemos and Reilyn Turner put it away, tying the game at two.

UCLA carried its momentum over into the first extra time period. Two corner kicks left wandering balls in the front of the net, but the Tar Heels were able to clear away both chances.

The Bruins' corner kick barrage continued in the second extra time. A shot by Turner off a set piece seemed to be cleared away by Emerson Elgin, and a VAR review confirmed the ball did not cross the line.

UCLA did put the ball in the back of the net two minutes later, however. Off an Emmie Allen rebound, Maricarmen Reyes gave the Bruins a lead that they carried toward the national championship.

Who stood out?

Despite dominating possession throughout the contest, the Tar Heels produced few chances all evening. Patterson, the bright spot on offense for UNC all season, came in clutch when the Tar Heels needed her. Precision crosses from Moxley and Colton led to both Patterson goals.

When was it decided?

While the game seemed to be decided for the Tar Heels in the waning seconds, a last-minute Bruins goal brought the game into extra time.

UCLA's goal in the second extra time period completed its unlikely comeback. Visibly defeated, the Tar Heels could not produce any final chances in the last two minutes.

Why does it matter?

The stunning loss is the third-consecutive national championship defeat for the Tar Heels. Their championship drought is extended another year. Despite having a Division I-leading 21 national championships, the Tar Heels have not won one since 2012.


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UNC senior forward Emily Moxley (8) passes the ball during UNC's game against UCLA in the NCAA Finals at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday, Dec. 5, 2022. UNC fell to UCLA 3-2.

<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball left searching for answers following fourth consecutive loss ]]> BLACKSBURG, Va. - Exiting the court following their 80-72 loss to Virginia Tech, nearly the entire UNC lineup hung their heads, offering reluctant high-fives to trainers and coaches. Junior guard Caleb Love pulled his jersey up to cover his face before dipping into the locker room.

The scene inside the locker room was equally demoralizing, although head coach Hubert Davis would prefer to describe it as "disappointed" or "tired."

Little banter passed between the players as they sat quietly, waiting to be approached by the media. Graduate wing Leaky Black moved to the corner of the locker room and sat with his hands on his head, staring aimlessly into the distance. While players answered questions to his left and right, junior guard RJ Davis looked down and absent-mindedly picked at a bandage on his finger.

The images from the North Carolina locker room after Sunday's loss spoke for themselves. This is a UNC team that's made history in the past week and a half -becoming the first preseason AP No. 1 men's basketball squad to lose four consecutive games. It's a product of a static offensive performance that UNC has yet to remedy.

It could come down to ball movement, which Hubert Davis stressed in his Friday press conference is a common topic of conversation in UNC's practices.

"For this specific team, we have communicated, talked about, drilled, practiced (ball movement) since the first time we got together as a group," Hubert Davis said on Friday.

UNC has drilled ball movement for good reason, as the team ranks below 300th in the nation in assist rate. So far this season, UNC is assisting on about 40 percent of its made field goals, dramatically below the DI average of 51.2 percent.

Senior center Armando Bacot seemed to grasp this larger picture as he sat out on Sunday nursing a contusion in his right shoulder. When asked if he was given a different vantage point from the bench, he said yes - "100 percent."

"I kinda see now from that standpoint - like, from y'all's (reporters') point of view - just how things sometimes are stagnant, and how we're missing out on a lot of opportunities and just not fully following all the details," Bacot said. "So, for me, I thought it was a learning point. I can kinda see now what some people are saying."

The issues with ball movement started early for the Tar Heels on Sunday afternoon, as UNC went 18 minutes in the first half without a single assist.

North Carolina's issues on the offensive glass and against Virginia Tech's ball-screen defense only made matters worse. In that same 18-minute span, the Tar Heels didn't register a single offensive board. Throughout the first half, UNC failed to get second looks or find the open man in double-team scenarios en route to a 10-point halftime deficit.

While Hubert Davis made it clear on Friday that he expected Virginia Tech to be "very physical and tough on the defensive end," several Tar Heel players stated in postgame interviews that they were surprised by the Hokies' intensity on pick-and-roll defense.

"It's tough going against a hedge, especially when you're not expecting it," Love said. "We didn't go over that, as far as before the game, that they do that."

Love later clarified that the Tar Heels didn't know "they were going to hard hedge like that" and instead had expected "a soft hedge." Graduate forward Pete Nance seconded this idea, saying that Virginia Tech "definitely hedged a lot more aggressively than we thought they were going to." He added the Hokies' approach took UNC out of its rhythm.

While Hubert Davis prefaced that he "tries to stay away from commenting on other people's comments when (he) wasn't in the locker room," he said UNC was prepared for the Hokie's effort.

"Anything that Virginia Tech does, whether the offensive or defensive end, they do it with tremendous effort," he said.

Regardless of UNC's level of preparation, the hedging played a huge role in disrupting North Carolina's spacing.

"I think our primary thing (holding the offense back) is just spacing, just opening up a little bit on the offensive end," RJ Davis said. "I feel like we're just too close to one another to go ahead and get downhill, make a play for one another. We're just too close, not really deep in the corners like the coaches want us to be."

Whatever the exact issue is, the Tar Heels need to remedy their offensive woes quickly if they hope to make due on their promises of "championship or bust."

While UNC searches for an answers, Hubert Davis will start the process toward a winning streak with words of encouragement.Considering the postgame scenes from North Carolina's locker room and the team's historic losing streak, that encouragement may be needed just as much as a simple schematic answer.

"We had enough in the bag to win this basketball game and we just didn't do it," Hubert Davis said.


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<![CDATA[Revised rotation helps UNC make late push in 80-72 loss to Virginia Tech]]> BLACKSBURG, Va. - When North Carolina faced its greatest challenge of the season, desperation seemed to build.

With senior Armando Bacot stationed to the bench with an injury during UNC's 80-72 loss at Virginia Tech, North Carolina got its first taste of play without the preseason All-American. The void triggered a frantic search to find a new working rotation.

Junior forward Puff Johnson slotted in to complete North Carolina's newest starting lineup - a group that was quickly broken up after junior guard Caleb Love picked up his second foul before the first media stoppage.

With his team in need of an answer, head coach Hubert Davis turned toward the end of his bench midway through the first half. His search led to devising a lineup which included Tyler Nickel, Dontrez Styles and Justin McKoy - three players who had played a combined 49 minutes this season entering Sunday's contest.

"We had guys out, add in D'Marco (Dunn) who was (second in) leading the team in bench minutes," Davis said. "It's always a next man up mentality."

The reserve-heavy lineup held its own in spurts and even inched the Tar Heels within a single possession in the first half after McKoy cashed in a pair of free throws before being substituted back out. But the Tar Heels' reeling efforts weren't solely categorized by trying to find the right lineup.

Graduate wing Leaky Black began the game guarding Sean Pedulla, the Hokies' leading scorer. When Grant Basile found success inside for Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels' defensive anchor switched onto the transfer from Wright State - a shift that foreshadowed a game in which Black soon bounced around new assignments at a higher rate.

Stagnant offense and continuous isolation sets saw the Tar Heels string out their offensive possessions late in the shot clock, a tendency UNC knew it needed to change at the break.

"We just had to figure out that we needed to play inside-out and attack the basket," graduate forward Pete Nance said. "Obviously we went through a couple of lineups but I think we found a group there at the end that was starting to figure some stuff out."

The group included first-years Seth Trimble and Nickel, who both recorded season-high playing time at 22 and 25 minutes, respectively. The fresh faces served as integral pieces in North Carolina's full-court press in the second half.

"Just their energy - they're able to come in with confidence and make the effort plays that were needed," junior guard RJ Davis said. "Seth (Trimble) stole the ball and he was able to keep it inbounds and Tyler (Nickel) was able to make a couple of tough shots. That was definitely something needed, so I'm very proud of them."

With the right group in place, North Carolina's desperation began to pay off.

UNC forced turnovers in the Hokies' back court which turned into easy layups and North Carolina's guards started to drive to the basket to attempt higher-chance shots. After trailing by as many as 18 points in the second half, the Tar Heels saw themselves behind by just three with 3:06 remaining.

"In the second half, I just found a group that really worked well together," Davis said. "I wanted to keep that group in. I thought we were consistently getting good looks on the offensive end and I felt like we were really sound defensively."

But as with most desperation efforts, North Carolina's attempt ran out of time.

Pedulla drilled an open 3-pointer with one minute left to stake the dagger in UNC's comeback bid. Though North Carolina dropped its fourth straight game, Davis said he believes the Tar Heels may have discovered something off their bench as a result of his team's desperation efforts.

"(Trimble and Nickel) competed," he said. "Defensively, they competed. It didn't matter whom they were guarding, that person knew they were there, it was felt. They were doing the things we asked them to do. I thought they were fantastic."


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<![CDATA[UNC basketball falls to Virginia Tech, 80-72, in first game of ACC play]]> BLACKSBURG, Va.- In its first conference game of the year, the No. 18 North Carolina (5-4, 0-1 ACC) fell to the Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1, 1-0 ACC), 80-72, Sunday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.

What happened?

The Hokies quickly responded to an early punch after North Carolina opened up a three-point lead. Senior guard Hunter Cattoor's 3-point basket and a transition floater from graduate forward Grant Basile helped Virginia Tech take a 9-5 lead at the first media timeout.

Sophomore guard Caleb Love picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game, prompting head coach Hubert Davis to reel out a mixture of lineups off the bench. Over the next eight minutes of play, multiple reserves saw extended minutes, including forwards Tyler Nickel, Dontrez Styles and Justin McKoy.

For part of the bench mob's spurt, the Tar Heels weathered the Hokie Storm as a pair of McKoy free throws cut Virginia Tech's lead to three. But the Hokies would answer back with a run of their own, capped by senior forward Justyn Mutts' putback layup which gave the home team a 22-13 lead.

A transition dunk by first-year guard MJ Collins would give the Hokies their largest lead of the game - at 12 points - with 1:29 remaining in the first half. North Carolina would claw its way back within 10 heading into the break, thanks to a Pete Nance made jumper.

Out of the stoppage, the Hokies turned to their preseason All-ACC honoree. Mutts flashed his multi-level scoring abilities, as he converted a pair of drives with layups and canned a 3-pointer from straight away to extend Virginia Tech's lead to 16 points.

North Carolina showed life late in the second half. With 4:55 remaining in the game, the Tar Heels trimmed its deficit to seven points. A newfound defensive intensity and the willingness to drive to the basket helped UNC show a heartbeat.

North Carolina would continue to chip away into the Hokies' lead, as a Love layup would inch the Tar Heels within three points. But Sean Pedulla's bucket from distance put the dagger in UNC's comeback bid, and Virginia Tech prevailed 0-0.

Who stood out?

Mutts was the difference maker for Virginia Tech, as the senior's ability to take opposing forwards off the dribble helped him expose the Tar Heels all afternoon. The Millville, N.J. native finished with a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds and was nearly unstoppable in the second half.

After the Hokies started out the game stagnant on offense, Cattoor got Virginia Tech rolling. The senior guard finished the first half with 13 points and swished three buckets from behind the arc.

When was it decided?

North Carolina was able to take an early lead and UNC's two assists appeared to suggest a new offensive mindset for North Carolina.

But as quick as the Tar Heels hinted at their improved offense flow, North Carolina's play on both ends went cold. Whether it was Cattoor's efficiency in the first half, or Mutts' impact throughout the contest, the Hokies held a double-digit advantage for a large portion of the game.

Why does it matter?

With the defeat, the Tar Heels extend their current losing streak to four games.

The loss also highlighted a further issue within North Carolina's offense - the inability to get quality looks. Although UNC showcased more ball movement around the horn, the Tar Heels still found themselves settling for high-difficulty looks, mostly in insolation sets. With UNC entering the heart of the regular season schedule in the coming weeks, it will need to find a cohesion and identity on the offensive side that's been absent all season.

When do they play next?

North Carolina returns home to take on Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Tar Heels' second conference game is set to tipoff at 3:15 p.m.


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<![CDATA[Tar Heels Crawley and Seggerman lead Team USA to MasterU' tennis championship over United Kingdom]]> Team USA, led by North Carolina junior Fiona Crawley and graduate student Ryan Seggerman, defeated the United Kingdom, 4-3, in the finals on Sunday to claim the MasterU' BNP Paribas Championship for the 10th time.

Eight nations participated, each of which had a team of three women and three men. The format of the tournament consisted of three knockout rounds, each of which were best of seven, with every team playing four singles and three doubles matches in each round.

What happened?

The championship began on Friday, with Team USA facing off against Germany. Crawley, playing in the No. 1 singles spot, was the first to record a win, trouncing Nicole Rivkine in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3. Seggerman ultimately found success as well and after a hard fought first set, he came out on top to defeat Jordi Walder 7-6, 6-3. The rest of Team USA followed suit and swept Germany in singles play to secure a trip to the semifinals.

Saturday saw Team USA facing off against France. The host nation showed a great deal of fight that caused almost every match to go down to the wire.

Crawley, after uncharacteristically dropping the first set of her singles match 6-1 to Alice Robbe, rallied back in an impressive and gritty showing to defeat her opponent 7-5, 10-8. Seggerman was unable to do the same and dropped his match against Francois Musitelli 6-4, 7-6. After singles play had concluded, France and the United States found themselves tied at 2-2.

Team USA, who had faltered the previous day in doubles play by conceding two of its three matches to Germany, came out firing. They were able to secure both women's and men's doubles victories to clinch their trip to the final round.

Team USA squared off against Great Britain in the championship-deciding last day of the tournament. Once again, the two teams found themselves knotted at 2-2 after singles play had concluded. Crawley, after remaining undefeated in singles throughout the fall season, lost for the first time, falling to Holly Hutchinson 6-3, 4-6, 5-10. But for the second consecutive day, the pair was able to rally back and triumph in doubles.

Crawley and Berkley's Haley Giavara won 6-3, 2-6, 17-15 in a hotly contested game, and Seggerman and USC's Stefan Dostanic picked up a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory to secure Team USA's ninth championship in 10 years.

Who stood out?

Crawley stood out as a leader of Team USA from the start, entering the tournament as the No. 1 ranked women's singles player in the United States. She played singles each day and was crucial to her team's advancement to the final round with her victories on Friday and Saturday.

When was it decided?

Team USA and Great Britain appeared to be on even footing heading into the final round of the tournament, and traded blows back and forth throughout the singles round, making it impossible to tell who was going to emerge on top.

However, Crawley and Giavara's doubles victory swung the momentum in Team USA's favor, which they would then capitalize on with a championship deciding win in men's doubles.

Why does it matter?

The MasterU' championship pits some of the best college players from around the world against each other, making it an important testing ground for upcoming spring conference play.

The chance for Crawley and Seggerman to play against the best of the best was an invaluable opportunity for them to hone their skills. The ultimate victory of Team USA continues the forward momentum that North Carolina tennis has built throughout the fall and puts them in a better position to perform in the coming months.

When do they play next?

North Carolina women's tennis next takes the court to kick-off the indoor season against Elon on Friday, Jan. 3rd. The men's tennis schedule has not been released, but the Tar Heels will begin their indoor season at the beginning of January.


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Then sophomore Fiona Crawley looks to return a volley during her singles match versus Boston College on Sunday, March 20, 2022.

<![CDATA[Graduate transfer Ryan Seggerman off to a promising start for the UNC men's tennis team]]> When graduate student Ryan Seggerman was first recruited by UNC men's tennis coach Sam Paul, neither of them imagined that it would take four years for Seggerman to make his debut as a Tar Heel.

Paul, who is not one to commonly use the transfer portal, decided to make an exception for Seggerman. The UNC tennis program had initially courted the top-15 recruit when he was in high school over four years ago, but Seggerman opted to commit to Princeton University instead.

Now, everything has come full circle.

Seggerman, who is a recent graduate of Princeton, made the decision last winter to transfer to UNC to play in his fifth season. In the Ivy League, players cannot compete as athletes beyond their four years of undergraduate study - so Seggerman had to enter the portal if he wanted to keep playing.

"The fifth year was a silver lining of COVID," Seggerman said. "I wanted to use (the fifth year) to play for a school that, one, was of good academic caliber, and two, (a school) that was pushing for some higher goals."

With recent success in doubles play at ITA events, the former two-time All-Ivy League doubles competitor has already begun to work his way toward those higher goals at UNC.

On Oct. 5, at the ITA All-American Championships, Seggerman was paired with fellow graduate student Brian Cernoch, a returning three-time All-American.

It was not always Paul's intention to pair the two graduate students up for doubles play, but rather, it was something that developed as the season pressed on.

Cernoch has been a top player for the Tar Heels just as Seggerman was for Princeton last season. Paul knew they were both talented players with invaluable experience, so he put them together.

"[The graduate transfers provide] a lot of experience," Paul said. "They've played a lot of matches. It helps you a lot. That's probably, sadly, the only good thing to come out of COVID - you get really good players that have a lot of experience."

At the ITA All-American Championships, the first tournament in which the two college veterans had played doubles together, the pair picked up three top-20 wins en route to the championship match.

"The fact that we were able to do that and get to the finals of such a prestigious event with really not much practice together under our belts was a good sign heading into the season," Cernoch said. "I think our games just complemented each other on the court."

Cernoch and Seggerman eventually fell in the doubles final of the ITA All-American main draw to Toby Samuel and Connor Thomson of South Carolina. Despite this loss, Cernoch and Seggerman hope their immediate success will prove paramount moving forward.

"We won our first couple of matches not really feeling like we were clicking necessarily in terms of both playing well at the same time," Seggerman said. "We won a couple of matches close, and just walked off the court feeling that we had a lot more that we could do. That helped us, as the tournament went on, to keep each other fired up. Like, man, if we can fire at the same times, I think that we could do something pretty special."

The pair didn't have the same success in the ITA Fall National Championships in San Diego, California. The duo fell in the consolation round of 16 of doubles play and Seggerman dropped in the consolation quarterfinals in singles play.

As the season presses on, Seggerman hopes to use his time at UNC to his advantage as he keeps chasing those higher goals.

"I'm trying to maximize what I can do in the tennis world," Seggerman said. "The coaches here have done a good job of helping me believe in myself more and my game. That's something that I want to push myself on this year and see what I can do on the collegiate scene."


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Uncertainty envelops UNC football program following ACC Championship Game loss]]> CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Just a few weeks ago, the North Carolina football team's confidence seemed to be at an all-time high.

Behind then-Heisman contender quarterback Drake Maye, the Tar Heels clinched a berth in the ACC Championship Game by defeating Wake Forest at Truist Field on Nov. 12.

However, the team that limped into Bank of America Stadium on Saturday looked wholly different. After a 39-10 thumping by the Tigers, UNC's third-straight loss, the window of opportunity to turn the season from good to great seemed to slam shut on the Tar Heels.

"Every loss is demoralizing because you want to win so bad," head coach Mack Brown said. "You want expectations. Some people get mad when you lose. Now, that's good, because (the fans) didn't care when we got here. There wasn't anybody in the stands and nobody cared when we won five and lost 18 in two years."

UNC got the start it wanted against Clemson by scoring a touchdown on its first drive and forcing two consecutive 3-and-outs in the first quarter. Even after going into halftime down 24-10, the offense drove into the red zone in its second series of the second half with a chance to make it a one-score game.

Instead, Maye threw an interception that Clemson defensive back Nate Wiggins returned for a 98-yard touchdown. Fifth-year senior Drew Swinney, the son of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, successfully ran in a two-point conversion attempt to give the Tigers a 22-point lead and squash out any chance of a UNC comeback.

Now, an air of uncertainty surrounds this UNC team, who will play its final game of the 2022 campaign against No. 15 Oregon at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Calif. on Dec. 28.

A handful of NFL hopefuls will likely choose to sit out the bowl game to avoid injury risk, the most notable being Josh Downs. After hauling in 11 catches for 100 yards against Clemson, the junior wide receiver seemed to indicate in a since-deleted Instagram story that Saturday was his last game in a UNC uniform.

"Tar Heel nation. It was a pleasure," Downs captioned the photo of his cleats.

Downs is one of the most prolific pass-catchers in UNC's history, as his 101 receptions and 1,335 receiving yards set single-season school records in 2021. With his family in the stands on Saturday, the undersized high school player turned college star reflected on his time at UNC.

"When I was in high school, I was a smaller guy," Downs said. "Coach Galloway, coach Longo, coach Mack, they never changed on me - so, Carolina means the world to me."

As the season reaches its conclusion, the transfer portal is also heating up, opening the door for Tar Heel players to explore next season's options.

Backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell, who competed with Maye for the job up through the end of the preseason, announced on Twitter Sunday morning that he would be transferring. Given the current climate of college football, he likely won't be UNC's only rostered player to open up his recruiting to other schools.

Sophomore linebacker Raneiria 'Rara' Dillworth also announced his decision to transfer on Sunday. The former four-star prospect played in ten games and tallied 13 tackles and assisted on two sacks this season.

Before the ACC Championship Game, Brown expressed his frustration with NIL's role in college athlete's decisions to transfer.

"I sat down and did lunch with one of our starters the other day," Brown said in a press conference last Monday. "I said, 'Are you getting calls?' He said, 'Coach, I've got 15 places I can go.' He said, 'I'm not going anywhere.' I said, 'Are they offering you money?' He said, 'Yes, 100 percent.'"

Despite the rumors swirling around him, Maye indicated following the Clemson loss that his plan, at least for now, was to return to Chapel Hill for his third season of college ball.

"That is my intention," Maye responded when asked if he would play for UNC next season. "I am a Carolina kid. It means something to wear that Carolina Blue."


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<![CDATA[Offensive mishaps, red zone struggles doom UNC football in ACC Championship loss to Clemson]]> CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With his team trailing by two scores midway through the third quarter, Drake Maye cooked up a final opportunity to work his magic.

As several Clemson defenders raced their way into the backfield - a common theme in Friday's ACC Championship Game - the redshirt first-year quarterback scrambled right and looked to find sophomore tight end John Copenhaver on the edge of the end zone. But once the ill-advised attempt softly fell into the hands of Clemson defensive back Nate Wiggins, who returned the interception 98 yards for a Tigers score, the only thing Maye could spot as he laid on the turf was the Tar Heels' chance to win the conference title immediately slipping away.

"I probably should have thrown it out of the back of the end zone, but I tried to make a play and it ended up costing us," Maye said.

The pick-six marked a potential 15-point swing in UNC's eventual 39-10 loss, but the Tar Heels' inability to score in timely situations was a recurring theme for most of the night. Although the team reached the red zone five times, North Carolina could only cash in twice.

Shortly after Clemson gained momentum by inserting backup quarterback Cade Klubnik, the Tar Heels gave the Tigers a gift when a mishandled exchange caused a fumble that gave the team prime field position deep in North Carolina territory.

Following a Clemson score that put the team ahead, UNC looked ready to answer the call. Despite facing as many as seven pass rushers at times, Maye stood in the pocket and helped the team move the chains in crucial third-down situations.

Yet, after a key pass breakup by Wiggins on third and goal, the Tar Heels were forced to settle for a field goal. While three points would have marked an uninspiring result for a team that seemed to move the ball efficiently, the end output was zero when Wiggins raced past the edge to block Noah Burnette's attempt and stall any kind of North Carolina production.

"We knew this wasn't going to be easy," head coach Mack Brown said. "If we'd have asked everybody in here nobody in here would have picked us. We had our chances to play better. We had our chance to be in the game in the fourth quarter, and that's what we needed to do."

When North Carolina blitzed out to a 9-1 start, the team formed an identity with its nationally prominent scoring offense that regularly dominated in the red zone. Through the first nine games, the Tar Heels scored on 91.5 percent of their red zone trips. In the last three outings - which have all resulted in losses - this total has dipped to 52.9 percent.

"Down in the red zone you have to have players make plays and tonight we didn't do that, and that starts with me," Maye said.

Despite the lopsided score, the Tar Heels actually seemed to adhere to their gameplan, which makes the end result that much more startling.

Junior wide receiver Josh Downs registered a patented 11-catch, 100-yard performance in what was likely his last game in a Tar Heel uniform. Clemson's star running back Will Shipley was held to just 18 rushing yards, and North Carolina actually held a 386-385 advantage in terms of total offense.

Glancing at such a box score before the game might have suggested a different outcome, or at least one that was more competitive. But in the midst of a 29-point drubbing on the national stage, such mishaps were placed on a pedestal, and Clemson - a team with championship DNA - quickly took advantage.

"They have a very good defense, very good front seven and they have a great coaching staff, but we just didn't finish when we had the opportunities," Downs said.

As UNC awaits its bowl fate - with many projecting the Tar Heels to face No. 15 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl - questions still remain about whether or not the North Carolina program belongs in the top echelon of the nation's elite teams.

If the Tar Heels want to stake their claim in that discussion, they'll have to start making plays when they mean the most.

"Were we awful? No. Should we have gotten beat this bad? No." Brown said. "We allowed things to happen to let the score get out of what it should have been."


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<![CDATA[Preview: No. 18 UNC men's basketball travels to Virginia Tech for first conference game of the season]]> Coming off three consecutive losses over the course of just six days, No. 18 North Carolina will travel to Blacksburg, Va., on Sunday to play Virginia Tech for its first conference game of the season.

After Wednesday night's loss at No. 10 Indiana, UNC became just the fourth preseason No. 1 team to drop three consecutive games. Now, the Tar Heels look to end their losing streak as they take on a well-coached and hungry Virginia Tech team.

Handle the physicality

UNC head coach Hubert Davis said many of his team's struggles can be attributed to the sheer physicality brought by opposing teams. In a press conference on Friday, he said the team was physicality bothered in terms of its movement and spacing.

"Other teams are blitzing us a lot," Davis said. "Our guards aren't able to penetrate and get downhill."

Without being able to advance the ball inside, UNC's guards have been forced into many ill-advised jumpshots. If the Tar Heels want to get better shot opportunities on offense and more stops on defense, it all starts with matching energy and becoming zealously physical on both ends of the floor.

On Friday, Davis praised the Hokies, saying they are "always very physical and tough on the defensive end." For this reason, it is imperative that the Tar Heels are able to handle the Hokies' physicality if they want to come away with their first notable road win of the season.

Moving the ball

One of UNC's biggest struggles offensively this season has been sharing the ball. The Tar Heels average just 11.4 assists per game, which ranks 301st in the nation. In the loss to Indiana, UNC notched only five assists, its lowest mark in a game since dishing out just four in the season opener against UNCW.

When asked about his team's low assist numbers, Davis said that ball movement is "all we talk about."

"For this specific team, we have communicated, talked about, drilled, practiced (ball movement) since the first time we got together as a group," Davis said.

Davis noted that UNC's spacing and balance have been thrown off when Tar Heel guards are being blitzed by opposing defenders. When this happens and lanes are being cut off, it makes it difficult to get the ball inside without effective passing.

For Davis, everything is about ball and player movement. If the Tar Heels can effectively move the ball, and move without the ball, open looks will come more easily.

Protect the paint

Indiana scored 50 of its 77 points in the paint Wednesday night, which doubled UNC's interior output.

"(The struggle to defend the paint) starts with the way we're guarding ball screens," Davis said. "Guards are able to get depth into the paint, and it's breaking down our defense."

Virginia Tech is led by 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Sean Pedulla, who is averaging 17.1 points per game to start the season. Expect the Hokies to place the Tar Heels in many ball screen situations involving Pedulla and senior forward Justyn Mutts, who is nearly averaging a double-double with 12.6 points and 9 rebounds per game.

In addition to struggles with ball screen defense, Davis cited the Tar Heels' turnovers as a leading cause for opposing points in the paint. Davis said the team was not able to get back in transition quickly enough, making many of their turnovers feel like "pick sixes."

Each of the keys for the Tar Heels goes hand in hand. If they can protect the ball and keep it moving, that will help rejuvenate the offense and prevent turnovers. On top of that, if UNC can match the physicality of Virginia Tech, it will lead to a better defensive performance.

"It's going to be a challenge for us, but I'm really excited about going up there (to Blacksburg)," Davis said.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[No. 24 UNC football drops ACC Championship to No. 10 Clemson, 39-10]]> The No. 10 Clemson Tigers (11-2, 9-0 ACC) defeated No. 24 UNC (9-4, 6-3 ACC) by a score of 39-10 in the ACC Championship. This is Clemson's fifth straight win over UNC and seventh ACC Crown in eight years.

What happened?

North Carolina got on the board first thanks to a quarterback keeper from redshirt first-year Drake Maye. Graduate tight end Kamari Morales and redshirt first-year Kobe Paysour were particularly active targets on the first drive, with Morales picking up 33 yards and Paysour almost completing a 38-yard pass that was caught just barely out of bounds.

Clemson tied the game at 7-7 roughly seven minutes later after a 1-yard reception by senior tight end Davis Allen. At quarterback for Clemson, Cade Klubnik threw five passes for fifty yards on that drive, including a momentum-shifting 22-yard pass to first-year wideout Antonio Williams that brought the Tigers within the red zone.

Soon after tying the game at 7-7, Clemson's Ruke Orhorhoro regained the ball on a fumble on a Maye handoff. Just two plays and 40 seconds later, the Tigers had another touchdown thanks to a 19-yard pass from sophomore running back Phil Mafah to Klubnik and a four-yard Mafah rush into the end zone to make the score 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

After the Tigers added another touchdown to extend their lead to 21-7, UNC began to claw back. Driving down the field, Maye tried to rush up the middle on third down at the Clemson 6-yard line. After Maye was tackled for a loss of two yards by Clemson sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., UNC sophomore Noah Burnette kicked a 25-yard field goal to bring the score to 21-10.

With just over a minute left in the second quarter, Clemson began to march down the field. After an ineligible receiver penalty froze the Tigers at midfield, graduate student B.T. Potter kicked a 52-yard field goal to close out the half, 24-10. This is the longest field goal in ACC Championship history, and ties Potter's career-long.

In the third quarter, the Tigers padded their score with a 15-0 run to add on to their 14-point halftime lead.

The scoring run started with a pick-six by sophomore cornerback Nate Wiggins. The 98-yard run -the longest pick-six in ACC title history - was followed by a two-point conversion rush by graduate wide receiver Drew Swinney. Shortely thereafter, Clemson added another touchdown after a Will Shipley rush up the middle. That drive was complete with a Klubnik pass to junior wide receiver Brannon Spector, who ran for over 30 yards following the catch to move Clemson into the red zone.

UNC's mishaps didn't cease in the final quarter, as a Maye had his pass to sophomore wide receiver J.J. Jones intercepted by Clemson first-year Jeadyn Lukus in the end zone. It wasn't too long before the time ran out, leading to a 39-10 final score.

Who stood out?

Klubnik, the backup quarterback for junior DJ Uiagalelei, entered the game in Clemson's third offensive possession - the earliest he's subbed in all season. Less than 10 minutes after he was subbed in, he completed the Tigers' longest pass of the season on a 40-yard pass to Cole Turner. Klubnik ended the game with 20 completions on 24 attempts, passing for a total of 279 yards. He also notably had seven pass plays of more than 15 yards.

On the defensive end, Wiggins was a clear standout. He broke up two passes in the end zone and blocked a field goal. He was also responsible for the third quarter pick-six that gifted Clemson a 32-10 lead.

When was it decided?

Wiggins' pick-six was a clear deciding point in the game. On UNC's previous drive, the Tar Heels looked poised to bring themselves within seven points of Clemson. However, the decisive pick-six took the wind out of North Carolina's sails, as the Tigers would soon go on to outperform the Tar Heels 15-0 in the third quarter.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina was on the cusp of a historic conference championship. A win on Saturday would have gifted UNC its first ACC title since 1980. However, due to a fumble and two interceptions, Clemson walked away with yet another ACC Championship.

When do they play next?

UNC will now await a bowl game berth.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Halftime reactions: UNC football trails Clemson in ACC Championship, 24-10]]> It's halftime at the ACC Championship Game, and North Carolina trails Clemson, 24-10.

Here are three main takeaways from the first half:

Maye back in rhythm

Following two lackluster outings, redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye regained his footing on the team's first drive by completing five of his six passes for 47 yards. Maye was effective as both a passer and a runner and evaded an all-out blitz to find junior wide receiver Josh Downs on a third and short in the red zone, which paved the way for a his own touchdown scamper on the next play.

Although Maye soon coughed up a fumble on a mishandled handoff that gave Clemson prime field position late in the first quarter, Maye responded to help the Tar Heels move down the field in their next drive. Despite regularly getting blitzed by as many as seven players, Maye withstood the pressure to deliver strikes to receivers in timely situations, especially on third down, where he made four timely conversions to move the chains.

Maye finished the half with 15 completions and 173 total yards. If the Tar Heels want to make the comeback, they'll need to provide more pass protection that will enhance Maye's comfort in the pocket.

Defense starts off strong, then sputters against Klubnik

After operating a "bend, don't break" defensive scheme for most of the season, assistant head coach for defense Gene Chizik dialed up an aggressive gameplan on Clemson's first two drives. The Tar Heels forced two straight three-and-outs and held the Tigers to 12 yards.

On the Tigers' third possession, the Tar Heels were given a different look when Clemson benched quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei for Cade Klubnik, the top quarterback in the 2022 class. Klubnik made an immediate impact by leading the Tigers down the field that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown pass that tied the game.

After the Maye fumble, Clemson punched in a touchdown two plays later to give the team the lead. On the next drive, Klubnik unleashed a 68-yard bomb that set up another score that made it 21-7 with just over six minutes to play.

Following Klubnik's dominance - completing his first 10 passes for 149 yards - the Tar Heels continued their recurring theme of failing to slow down backup quarterbacks. Secondary signal callers have yet to skip a beat against UNC's defense, and with plenty of momentum building, the Tar Heels could be in for a long second half if they don't make the proper adjustments.

Mishaps slow down UNC's offense

Aside from the Maye fumble that helped the Tigers steal momentum and take the lead, the Tar Heels have also squandered several opportunities to pull closer.

When UNC drove into the red zone trailing 14-7, Clemson defensive back Nate Wiggins made a key pass breakup that forced a field goal attempt. With nobody blocking the right edge, Wiggins raced into the backfield and batted away Noah Burnette's kick to keep points off the board.

On its final drive of the half, UNC had a first-and-goal opportunity but settled for a field goal after the offense stalled in three plays.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[UNC women's soccer displays resilience to defeat Florida State and advance to national championship]]> CARY, N.C. - Perched in his familiar stance on the North Carolina sideline, Anson Dorrance wasn't worried - even if he had every right to be.

In a year marked by season-ending injuries and second half collapses, the Tar Heels seemed primed to add another chapter to the saga in their College Cup semifinal clash against Florida State on Friday night.

After senior defender Julia Dorsey netted her first goal of the year to give UNC a 3-0 lead, the Seminoles' desperation and pedigree as reigning national champions sparked life into their urgent attack as the team scored two quick headers to steepen the drama.

Yet, when the Tar Heels held onto a 3-2 win to clinch their first national title appearance since 2019, the 44-season coaching veteran couldn't help but grin at the display of resiliency that mirrored the team's mindset all season.

"For a team like ours that doesn't have the experience of a Florida State or the overwhelming talent when we lost two of the best players in the country, what makes up for it is the fact that these kids are just killing themselves for each other," Dorrance said. "We were hanging on by a thread for a while in the second half and then we were able to coalesce and find a way to push forward."

Coupled to the long list of adversity was facing the gaudy Florida State team that returned to WakeMed Soccer Park weeks after dominating UNC on the same field in the ACC Championship final. In the previous contest, the Tar Heels were held without a corner attempt for the first time all season as the Seminoles claimed the conference title.

Although Florida State seemed to control most of the match on Friday - holding a 25-14 shot advantage and boasting a 13-3 corner differential - the Tar Heels converted on timely scoring chances by displaying an aggressive offense that often featured as many as eight attackers in the top half of the field.

"We can play," Dorsey said. "We don't need to kick the ball out and defend, we can play with them and generate more possession, and it was more a message of not being scared of them."

With just over three minutes to play in the first half, newly inserted substitute Aleigh Gambone found herself in the middle of the attacking area. After first-year forward Maddie Dahlien's cross was errantly knocked away by FSU's Heather Payne, the senior midfielder launched a rebound shot past the keeper to give the team much-needed momentum.

As one of the team's longest-tenured players, Gambone is one of the few Tar Heels that has participated in the College Cup. Despite having a more limited role in her senior year, she has quickly become a central cog in UNC's revamped 3-5-2 formation.

"Every time when we invest in her, she pays us back and today was an absolutely fabulous example," Dorrance said.

Although Florida State head coach Brian Pensky admitted that he believed his team was in a good position with a slim 1-0 deficit heading into the break, the Tar Heels struck quickly in the second period with a penalty kick from senior defender Tori Hansen minutes before a well-placed free kick from senior forward Emily Moxley paved the way for Dorsey's header.

While UNC's win looked to be secured, the Seminoles immediately fired back.

Seconds after the Dorsey goal, Florida State responded with a cross that was headed home by Onyi Echegini. After threatening on several additional occasions, the Seminoles added another goal to trim the deficit to just under 15 minutes remaining.

But as the clock slowly ticked away and shots continuously hurled into the direction of redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen and the Tar Heels' back line, the team knew it had the mental fortitude to get over the top.

"As a goalkeeper it was very nerve-wracking. But, at the same time, it's part of the position," Allen said. "You're not always going to save every shot and both of their goals were good goals, in my opinion, but we came together in the last 15 minutes and got the job done."

With a chance to clinch the program's first national title in 10 years, the Tar Heels know they still have one more obstacle of adversity to climb.

But before UNC faces UCLA - a team that handed the Tar Heels their first home loss of the season in early September - Dorrance took the time to offer a realization that attests to North Carolina's stunning climb to the mountaintop.

"We're playing with house money," Dorrance said. "We lost two of the best players in the country and we're in the national championship final. Are you kidding me?"


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Rebuilding UNC rowing program is ready to win under Erin Neppel]]> When future members of the North Carolina women's rowing team celebrate success, they'll know exactly when it all started and exactly whom to thank.

Erin Neppel was hired as the team's head coach last fall, and has been able to turn the program on its head throughout the early part of her tenure.

Though Neppel served as the assistant coach at Virginia for four years prior to coming to UNC, she is Tar Heel bred. A three-time All-ACC rower at UNC, she is one of only three All-America honorees in the school's rowing history.

The team had been navigating rough waters after former head coach Sarah Haney resigned in 2019 following a University Title IX office investigation into the program. COVID-19 exacerbated a lack of clarity regarding new leadership, as the team fielded two different interim coaches.

Despite the turbulence, Neppel is resolute in her visions for the team. Senior rower Kate Burgess said Neppel and her assistants have defined a new standard of excellence since taking over the program.

"(Neppel is) great, and everyone that she brought with her when she came is great," Burgess said. "She came in and immediately defined what the standard was. And I think we really needed that guidance, and it's really gotten us on the right foot to start transitioning into a new normal."

Neppel brought three assistant coaches with her, including Jason Bernard, who previously served as the head coach of the men's club rowing team at Clemson for 6 years and the novice coach of the women's rowing team for one.

Bernard described Neppel as a "tremendous leader" and noted that, together, they pride themselves on being transparent with the team.

"We're going to celebrate the wins," he said. "We're going to be brutally honest whenever we know we're not measuring up. But, you know, we're all in this together."

With this transparency came a jolt of realization for the team this season. After finishing last in the ACC rowing championships last season, Bernard said Neppel and her crew are ready to win now.

"We're driven people. We love competing," Bernard said. "We breed competition into everything that we do because of that. It makes them better, makes them faster."

Bernard said that he's cautiously optimistic and that he and Neppel know that rebuilding the team is a going to take time.

"It's a long process and it's going to have its bumps in the road. But we'll get there eventually," he said. "Right now it's just all about enjoying kind of where we're at in the process and just the wins along the way, whatever form they may take."

The team is also focusing on performance metrics. Neppel noted that, the team lost to opponents by smaller margins last season and the first varsity eight crew won the petite title at the ACC Rowing Championships in May.

With a season under their belts, Bernard and Neppel know how they want the team to look and what it will take to get there.

"I think they got a little bit of their swagger back," Neppel said. "I want to beat somebody this year and I think we all have kind of agreed on that."

In the Rivanna Romp on Nov. 14, the team's final event of the fall season, UNC beat out several other team's boats. The team is hoping to build on these results when the spring season kicks off.

Burgess said that Neppel has big aspirations, and that the coach's unwavering confidence has allowed her to revolutionize the way the team perceives itself.

"She just started demanding better for us, and I think that our team had been getting used to being stagnant and not demanding more for ourselves," Burgess said. "She came in with a loud voice and was not afraid to make it heard."

The team has had to adjust to the absence of several seniors and graduate students from last season who had been not only strong athletes, but strong leaders, too. When Neppel came into a team with varying experience levels and new expectations, some people were thrown back on their heels.

After making progress under the radar, Burgess and her teammates are looking forward to scaring teams they haven't been a threat to lately and proving they are a force to be reckoned with.

"I'm really hopeful," Burgess said. "I'm excited for the future. Even when I'm no longer on the team in the future, I'll be in the front row cheering louder than anyone when the success does come to fruition."

For Neppel and her team, the future of North Carolina rowing is just getting started.

"I'm most excited to get into spring racing and just to see these guys light up," Neppel said. "Between now and (spring), there's lots and lots and lots to be done. But it's always pretty sweet at the end to see where you've gotten yourself over the year."


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<![CDATA[UNC women's soccer outlasts Florida State, 3-2, to book trip to national championship]]> CARY, N.C. - The North Carolina women's soccer team defeated Florida State, 3-2, on Friday to book its ticket to the national championship game.

What happened?

The Seminoles dominated in the early goings with six shots and six corner kicks in the first 30 minutes of play, compared to just two shots and one corner for the Tar Heels. Redshirt first-year goalkeeper Emmie Allen stayed strong in goal though, tallying five first-half saves.

With three-and-a-half minutes to play in the first half, UNC senior midfielder Aleigh Gambone netted the first goal of the match. First-year Maddie Dahlien sent the first shot at goal from the right side, but it was blocked by Florida State defender Heather Payne. The deflection was sent straight to Gambone, who placed the ball into the top of the goal to draw first blood before the end of the half.

The Tar Heels, energized by their goal, came out of the break with more aggression. Shots on goal from redshirt first-year forward Ally Sentnor and junior midfielder Talia DellaPeruta put pressure on Florida State. Senior forward Isabel Cox almost headed in a second UNC goal off a set piece in the 54th minute, but the shot was saved by keeper Christina Roque.

In the 59th minute, Florida State's Heather Gilchrist was called for a handball inside the 18-yard box, giving UNC a penalty kick. Senior defender Tori Hansen, UNC's penalty kick specialist, went top shelf to double her team's lead.

Seven minutes later, the Tar Heels struck again. Senior midfielder Emily Moxley took a free kick from the left wing, connecting with senior defender Julia Dorsey, who headed the ball into the net to put UNC up 3-0.

Florida State wasn't dead in the water though, responding with a successful counter just 36 seconds later. Seminoles forward Jody Brown sent a perfectly-placed cross to Onyi Echegini, who headed in the ball from the left side of the goal.

Echegini then flexed her playmaking, assisting Payne in the 76th minute to cut Florida State's deficit to just one goal.

Who stood out?

Gambone was the surprise star with her first goal since the season opener against Tennessee, while Hansen stayed hot from the penalty kick marker, making her fifth in five attempts.

Allen, although she gave up two goals, came up clutch in the end for UNC with several key saves.

Brown and Echegini were the main aggressors for Florida State, combining for eight shots and scoring or assisting on both of the Seminoles' goals.

When was it decided?

It seemed as if UNC had built up an insurmountable lead after going up 3-0 in the 66th minute, but the Seminoles kept the hope alive after scoring two goals in succession to turn the momentum around.

UNC defended for its life following Florida State's second goal, as the Seminoles played with a renewed confidence. In the waning minutes, Allen and UNC's backline made several crucial stops to put an end to Florida State's comeback attempt.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina and Florida State were very familiar with each other, having met both in the regular season and the ACC Championship. The Tar Heels played much better than they did in the last meeting though, and came away victorious in the trilogy bout.

The Tar Heels will return to the national championship game for the first time since 2019, in search of the program's 22nd NCAA Championship.

When do they play next?

UNC will go on to play the winner of Alabama and UCLA in Cary on Monday, Dec. 5 at 6:00 p.m.


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UNC junior forward Talia DellaPeruta (24) fights for the ball during UNC's game against FSU in the NCAA semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

<![CDATA['When you're not getting the results it's tough': UNC men's basketball on a three-game skid following Indiana loss]]> BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Specks of silent blue in a roaring sea of white.

As the 17,222 fans in a packed Assembly Hall began to noisily celebrate Indiana's 77-65 win over North Carolina, the UNC men's basketball team trudged to the locker room.

After head coach Hubert Davis addressed his team and exited the room, the players began packing up for their bus ride to Indianapolis in silence. The few words exchanged were muffled by the sounds of backpack zippers and bandages unraveling.

What else is there to say at that point?

"The reason why we lost tonight is because Indiana was better than us," Hubert Davis said. "It had nothing to do with travels or the responsibilities our guys have on the court and in the classroom."

The first eight games of a season by no means paint the full picture of where a team will be come March. But it's enough to accurately gauge just how well UNC is living up to expectations so far.

And in their first true road test at one of college basketball's most historic venues, the Tar Heels, by most measures, fell short.

"Individually, none of us are really playing at the level we can really play at - we've just got to figure it out," senior forward Armando Bacot said. "When you're not getting the results it's tough. We're going to grow through it and grow through it as a team."

Just two minutes into the second half, it seemed that the team's cohesion had already begun to crumble. After junior guard Caleb Love missed a three, Bacot picked up his third foul on star Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.

On the next play, Bacot tried to post up on Jackson-Davis. But sloppy dribbling led to a fastbreak opportunity for Indiana, where a visibly frustrated Leaky Black registered an uncharacteristic reach-in foul. The animated Hoosier student section sensed the vexation like wolves smelling fear, and Assembly Hall somehow got even louder.

"It gets loud in that place, you can't really hear your teammates," junior guard RJ Davis said. "When things don't go your way, like a turnover or missed shot, it's about remaining positive and staying together because you don't want to feed into the negative energy and let the crowd get into it."

Contrary to RJ Davis' point, the Tar Heels didn't stay together. Two minutes later, Indiana's lead had ballooned to 15 points, and from there, the Hoosiers never looked back. Even though four Indiana fouls in two minutes helped UNC claw back to an eight-point deficit from the free throw line, the offensive statistics reinforced glaring issues.

North Carolina tallied just five assists, and the team now has more turnovers than assists on the season.

In the Tar Heels' three-game losing skid, any sign of last year's free-flowing offense with abundant off-ball movement has disappeared. It's been replaced by stagnant dribble hand-offs leading to isolation guard play, with defenses badgering Davis and Love into contested jumpers with the shot clock winding down.

Given UNC's 0-3 record against Power 5 programs, it's safe to say that style of offense isn't sustainable against higher-caliber opponents.

"We have the talent. We have the pieces. We just gotta tighten our screws up a little bit," RJ Davis said.


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<![CDATA[Defensive lapses against Indiana result in UNC women's basketball's first loss of season]]> BLOOMINGTON, Ind.- When in doubt, the North Carolina women's basketball team has always turned to its defense.

In contests against Oregon and Iowa State at the Phil Knight Invitational, the Tar Heels fell behind early, highlighted by a 17-point deficit in the first half against the Cyclones. But stifling late-game defense in both matchups allowed UNC to claw its way out with two victories.

Both comebacks started on the defensive end. On Thursday at No. 5 Indiana, several defensive breakdowns prevented another UNC come-from-behind win. After being down by 16 points at the half, North Carolina allowed the Hoosiers to run away with an 87-63 win.

"(Indiana) shot really well," UNC head coach Courtney Banghart said. "We didn't guard the arc. We didn't guard the paint. We didn't guard penetration. We didn't guard connected. We were uncharacteristically not good on that end."

Contrary to the sluggish starts North Carolina has become accustomed to this season, UNC came out firing. A pair of triples and a Kennedy Todd-Williams free throw helped UNC open up a seven-point advantage less than two minutes into the contest.

But as quick as North Carolina sprang ahead, its defense came crashing down.

In the next two minutes of play, Indiana erased its deficit thanks to the Hoosiers' inside-out offense. The quick 8-0 scoring spurt was capped off by first-year guard Henna Sandvik's open 3-pointer from the corner.

"We had some lapses early to where we let them get wide-open threes," junior guard Deja Kelly said. "Then down the line, within the game - even when our hands were in their faces - the basket felt huge for them."

By the end of the first half, the Hoosiers opened up a double-digit lead and had knocked down eight shots from distance. The 3-point barrage featured a range of high-difficulty makes from Indiana, like senior guard Sara Scalia's shot multiple feet behind the arc that seamlessly swished through the net.

Many Tar Heels said they felt at ease despite trailing by 16 points at the half, noting their previous experiences this year gave them confidence heading into the third quarter.

This time, the hostile environment eventually snapped North Carolina. With nearly six thousand people crowded inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, UNC's lack of communication on both ends of the court continued.

"There were a lot of fans trying to get you riled up," Todd-Williams said. "We're going to have those crowds at Louisville or N.C. State. So, I think this was a good test for us."

With the home crowd behind them, the Hoosiers meticulously exposed North Carolina on every level offensively.

Junior guard Sydney Parrish canned four 3-pointers en route to finishing with 24 points. Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes reached into her deep post-move bag to finish with a game-high 25 points.

"What you saw tonight (from Indiana) was what I've seen on film," Banghart said. "It's a team that can spread you out. They've got one of the better centers in the game on their team. They cut with incredible pace (and) they trust each other."

Although some may point at the Tar Heels' first loss of the season as an opportunity for UNC to grow, Banghart doesn't "think that you have to lose to win."

Instead, North Carolina's head coach would rather see her team get back to its winning ways and grow from there, and Banghart knows that starts on the defensive end.

"When we look back through it there wasn't any aspect of our defensive connectedness that caused a problem for (Indiana)," she said.


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