Sentnor’s emotional career debut a year after injury highlights dominant UNC women’s soccer win

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — More than a year after enduring heartbreak against UNC Wilmington, Ally Sentnor added to what already has been a big summer with an emotional career debut against the Seahawks.

The redshirt freshman, just back from playing for the U.S. U20 World Cup team in Costa Rica, tore her right ACL at UNCW in the first 10 minutes of UNC’s first exhibition game last season. She made an immediate impact in No. 10 Carolina’s dominant 2–0 women’s soccer victory with a 23–2 shot advantage on a sometimes rainy Sunday afternoon.

Sentnor (top photo), a left-footed redshirt freshman forward from Hanson, Mass., admitted that there were some nerves as she ran onto the Dorrance Field for the first time in a match in the 22nd minute.

“They were there,” said Sentnor, who scored UNC’s only first-half goal. “Right when I got off at the airport, it was like, ‘of course, Wilmington is the first game.’ But when I stepped on that field, nothing mattered except doing what I could out there. There’s almost no room for nerves out here.”

What could she do out there? What couldn’t she do? It was immediately obvious that she’ll be a difference-maker for the Tar Heels (2–0–0) with some slick runs, crosses, shots and a deflection.

Then, in the 34th minute, she rocketed a long shot past UNCW goalkeeper Blair Barefoot off of a pass from Emily Moxley, who had both assists.

“This is what she’s gonna do for us,” said UNC coach Anson Dorrance, adding that it was “poetic justice” that her return came against the Seahawks. “The way we look at it is the demons have been smothered with this.”

When she embraced Dorrance on the sideline when she came out of the game a few minutes after the goal. Little was said between the two. 

“We didn’t have to say anything,” Dorrance said. “We love having her back and, as you can tell, she’s going to help us.”

Sentnor said that her recovery was difficult, with plenty of ups and downs, but credited the support of the staff and coaches.

“He’s been great from the instant I got here to the instant I got injured, just so supportive and willing to help me in any way possible,” Sentnor said of Dorrance. “And that just means so much as a player because it gives me the motivation to get better and help the team in any way that I can, whatever all that means.”

Sentnor’s debut came sooner than they would have preferred because the U.S. went 1–2–0, finished third in Group D and didn’t advance. She played on the team with UNC teammate Talia Dellaperuta, who didn’t play Sunday because she’s banged up with an injury.

“It was definitely bittersweet,” Sentnor said. “We obviously would have loved to go further in the tournament, but I learned so much from the coaching staff there, the teammates there; I had a blast. It was just such a great experience and opportunity to play against international competition. You don’t get that every day. So hopefully, I can bring what I learned there back to this team, and I’m just excited to be back at this point.”

A Carolina team that already showed its dominance in two exhibition victories and a season-opening win over No. 11 Tennessee just gets better with the addition of Sentnor, who has 16 goals and 21 caps playing for U.S. national teams.

“It’s just really exciting to come back and play this season and to help the team hopefully get to a national championship,” she said.

In the 74th minute, Moxley’s pass nicely set up an Emily Murphy header goal  inside the box to make it 2–0 and give Murphy her first goal of the season.

While it was a bit of redemption for Sentnor to play well against UNCW, it was also memorable for Moxley, a senior who played her freshman season at UNCW.

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“I saw her wide open, and I knew she could score from there. So she also did all the hard work there,” Moxley said of her assist on Sentnor’s goal. “She was such a big impact on the team as a player and a person. She’s just has a huge impact on the team and we definitely missed her.”

It took 17 minutes for UNCW (1–1–0) to possess the ball on Carolina’s half of the field, and it was just over the midfield line and short. It didn’t get much better for the Seahawks, whose first shot came in the 54th minute.

Dorrance said that the Seahawks made it tough on the Tar Heels offensively, particularly in the first half, by playing five in the back.

Just as against Tennessee, Emmie Allen was in goal for the first half and Marz Josephson for the second half. Josephson saw the only two shots and only had to make one save. The Tar Heels have not given up a goal in two exhibitions and two regular-season games.

NOTES — Defender Maycee Bell was held out of the game for precautionary reasons, but her issue isn’t anything serious. … On Title IX Celebration Day, all the athletes from Carolina’s other women’s sports took the field at halftime as UNC recognized the school’s years of excellence and national titles in women’s sports. … Carolina improved to 40–0 all-time against in-state non-ACC opponents. … That was UNCW’s first loss by more than one goal in 16 games and snapped a five-game Seahawks win streak against in-state opponents. … The Tar Heels play their first road match of the season at 8 p.m. Thursday against Texas. They play Baylor at 1 p.m. Sunday in Austin, Texas. Both games air on the Longhorn Network.

No. 10 UNC 2, UNCW 0

DateMonth/dayGame/scoreOpponent
(current rank)
LocationTV/
record
August
7SundayW, 5–0VCU HomeExhibition
13SaturdayW, 2–0BYUHomeExhibition
18ThursdayW, 3–0TennesseeHome1–0–0
21SundayW, 2–0UNCWHome2–0–0
25ThursdayW, 2–0TexasAustin, Texas3–0–0
28SundayW, 6–0BaylorAustin, Texas4–0–0
September
1ThursdayW, 3–1MissouriColumbia, Mo.5–0–0
4SundayL, 2–1No. 1 UCLAHome5–1–0
8ThursdayW, 3–0X-No. 4 DukeDurham6–1–0
11SundayW, 2–1Central FloridaHome7–1–0
17SaturdayL, 3–2No. 2 VirginiaHome7–2–0,
0–1–0 ACC
22ThursdayW, 1–0SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.8–2–0,
1–1–0 ACC
25SundayW, 3–0Boston CollegeHome9–2–0,
2–1–0 ACC
October
1SaturdayL, 2–1Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.9–3–0,
2–2–0 ACC
6Thursday7 p.m.PittHomeACCNX (ESPN3)
9Sunday1 p.m.N.C. StateHomeACCNX (ESPN3)
14Friday7 p.m.Wake ForestHomeACCNX (ESPN3)
20Thursday8 p.m.No. 7
Florida State
Tallahassee, Fla.ACC Network
23Sunday1 p.m.MiamiCoral Gables, Fla.ACCNX (ESPN3)
27Thursday6 p.m.LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.ACC Network
ACC Tournament
30SundayTBAFirst roundCampus sitesTBA
November
3ThursdayTBASemifinalsCaryTBA
6SundayTBAChampionshipCaryTBA
X — Non-conference game. Buy tickets to home games here.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

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