By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — Soccer can be an unforgiving, frustrating game some days, and that was the case Sunday for top-ranked North Carolina, which had nothing to show from a dominant effort.
The Tar Heels got the better of the physical, high-level women’s soccer match, but No. 3 UCLA scored on two counters, one after the goal scorer appeared to knock over a UNC defender, to earn a 2–1 victory at Dorrance Field in what might have been a College Cup preview.
In a game where UNC (5–1–0) had 66% of the possession time, a 16–7 shot edge and a 10–1 corner-kick advantage, the Heels had numerous flurries in front of the Bruins’ net. But UCLA forward Reilyn Turner broke free on a beautiful play to fire a shot in the far-right part of the net for an unassisted game-winning goal in the 86th minute.
The score came after Turner gave a light hip check to UNC midfielder Tori Hansen, knocking her down near midfield. That might draw a lot of praise in the NHL, but it didn’t draw a foul in this match.
“I think it’s just an unlucky play,” said freshman forward Tori Dellaperuta, who headed in UNC’s only goal. “I thought it was a foul. The girl came through our player, and she countered, good finish. But we can’t really do anything about that.”
Asked if a foul should have been called, UNC coach Anson Dorrance said “maybe,” adding that he didn’t think that UNC midfielder Sam Meza deserved a yellow card in the first half for “toe bashing” a ball away from a player who fell over her.
“All of us can speculate on referee calls until we’re blue in the face,” Dorrance said. “Proud of my team; they played well. We were the dominant team, and sometimes in a game like ours, the dominant team doesn’t always win. But we weren’t just occasionally dominant.”
The Bruins (5–0–0) finished a successful road trip to North Carolina after a 2–1 win Thursday over No. 2 Duke, UNC’s next opponent.
“I thought we played very well,” Dorrance said. “A lot of things we did in the game were exactly according to the game plan, so a lot of the kids checked a lot of great boxes, so we’re not entirely disappointed. We’re certainly disappointed in the result, but not in the performance.”
The Tar Heels were particularly dominant in the first 10 minutes of the match but couldn’t convert any opportunities and had only one shot on goal. The Bruins played five defenders back, and Carolina had trouble penetrating the final third of the field.
“I think the challenge is just finding the pockets,” Dellaperuta said. “We’ve got to play one and two touch, look for those tiny pockets of space and finish our chances. Dribbling’s not going to help. The openings are going to close.”
Forward Tessa Dellarose, who assisted on UNC’s goal, said it was frustrating to keep getting chances and to get no payoffs.
“We were creating them, and we were doing the hard work to get those chances for us and not seeing them go in was a little bit frustrating,” she said. “But back to the drawing board and just get better at it.”
Most of UCLA’s first-half chances came in transition. Carolina starting goaltender Emmie Allen made a nice save on a close-in shot by UCLA’s Lexi Wright in the 14th minute. She was slow to get up after stopping a driving UCLA player late in the first half but stayed in the game. As with every previous game, Marz Josephson was in goal for the second half.
UNC finally broke through in the 48th minute after a scoreless first half on Dellarose’s corner kick.
“My job was back post and I clean up anything that comes over the front post, over the middle, and my job is to hit it back across the frame,” Dellaperuta said. “The goal was wide open, and all I needed to do was just hit it.”
After the ball deflected off UCLA defender Brianne Riley, Dellaperuta headed it past UCLA keeper Lauren Brzykcy.
“I’m looking for Tori Hansen’s head or [Isabel] Cox if she’s in,” Dellarose said of her corner kick strategy. “I try to go higher. As long as it gets past the first defender, that’s really my main goal.”
UCLA forward Lexi Wright powered past three UNC defenders and rocketed a shot over Josephson in the 61st minute to tie it with an unassisted goal.
Carolina had a few flurries in front of the UCLA goal, hitting the crossbar at one point, and Brzykcy made a diving stop on another shot before the Bruins got the game-winner.
“They just got a lucky chance, and they countered on it,” Delaperuta said. “But at the end of the day, I think our team put in hard work and, you know, we shut them down. We had most of the possession, and we worked hard as a team, and we’re gonna come back from this stronger.”
NOTES: Allen has not given up a goal in 270 minutes this season, and Josephson has given up three in the same amount of minutes. … That was Carolina’s first loss after leading since a 2–1 overtime setback against Central Florida in 2017. … UNC is 139–12–2 since 2000 as the top-ranked team. … Two players had to be carried off the field with injuries: UCLA midfielder Megan Edelman late in the first half and UNC freshman defender Kayleigh Herr midway through the second half. Herr replaced in the lineup star defender Maycee Bell, who is out for the season with a torn meniscus in her left knee. Dorrance said he didn’t know anything about her status. Without her, the defensive depth gets more depleted. … Dorrance said that junior Talia Dellaperuta is still recovering from an injury and that he doesn’t know if she’ll be released this week for training. … Carolina leads the all-time series with UCLA 11–2–2. It was the first meeting since the Tar Heels beat UCLA 4–2 on penalty kicks in a 2–2 match in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. … It was the second UNC-UCLA matchup of the No. 1 and No. 3 teams, with UNC winning 1–0 in Durham in 2013. … Carolina plays at 8 p.m. Thursday at No. 2 Duke (4–1 entering Sunday night’s game at TCU) in a game that doesn’t count in the ACC standings. The game airs on ACC Network. … The Tar Heels wore Black Live Matters T-shirts during warmups.
No. 3 UCLA 2, No. 1 UNC 1
|25||Thursday||W, 2–0||Texas||Austin, Texas||3–0–0|
|28||Sunday||W, 6–0||Baylor||Austin, Texas||4–0–0|
|1||Thursday||W, 3–1||Missouri||Columbia, Mo.||5–0–0|
|4||Sunday||L, 2–1||No. 1 UCLA||Home||5–1–0|
|8||Thursday||W, 3–0||X-No. 8 Duke||Durham||6–1–0|
|11||Sunday||W, 2–1||Central Florida||Home||7–1–0|
|17||Saturday||L, 3–2||No. 11 Virginia||Home||7–2–0,|
|22||Thursday||W, 1–0||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||8–2–0,|
|25||Sunday||W, 3–0||Boston College||Home||9–2–0,|
|1||Saturday||L, 2–1||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||9–3–0,|
|6||Thursday||W, 4–0||No. 19 Pittsburgh||Home||10–3–0,|
|9||Sunday||W, 2–0||N.C. State||Home||11–3–0,|
|14||Friday||W, 1–0||Wake Forest||Home||12–3–0,|
|20||Thursday||W, 2–1||No. 5 |
|23||Sunday||W, 4–0||Miami||Coral Gables, Fla.||14–3–0,|
|27||Thursday||W, 1–0||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||15–3–0,|
|3||Thursday||T, 0–0, 2 OTs (UNC advances 7–6 on PKs)||Semifinal vs. |
No. 8 Duke
|6||Sunday||L, 2–1||Final vs. No. 5 Florida State||Cary||15–4–1|
|12||Saturday||W, 5–0||First round: |
|17||Thursday||W, 3–1||Second round: Georgia||Chapel Hill||17–4–1|
|19||Saturday||W, 3–2||Third round: |
No. 15 BYU
|South Bend, Ind.||19–4–1|
|2||Friday||W, 3–2||Semifinals: No. 5 Florida State||Cary||20–4–1|
|5||Monday||L, 3–2, 2 OTs||Championship: No. 1 UCLA||Cary||20–5–1|
Photo of Isabel Cox (13) courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications