Thin back line depth hurts No. 2 UNC as No. 7 Cavs rally from 2 goals down to win

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — When No. 2 North Carolina lost defenders Maycee Bell and Kaleigh Herr for the season to knee injuries, the elite women’s soccer teams figured to challenge the Tar Heels’ thin backline.

After UNC controlled the first half, No. 7 Virginia made the most of its chances with three goals on six shots. Talented junior midfielder Lia Godfrey rallied the Cavaliers from a two-goal halftime deficit for a 3–2 victory at Dorrance Field in the ACC opener for both teams.

It was the first time in Carolina program history that the Tar Heels surrendered a two-goal lead in a regulation loss. Texas A&M turned a 3–1 deficit into a 4–3 overtime win in 2011 in the only other time UNC lost after leading by two. It was the first time Carolina (7–2–0, 0–1 ACC) has given up three goals in a half since Boston College netted three in the second half of a 3–2 victory in 2010.

UNC coach Anson Dorrance said Virginia (8–0–1, 1–0 ACC) took advantage of his team’s lack of defensive depth.  

“We were exploited,” he said after the Cavaliers scored their most goals in program history against Carolina. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to completely revamp what we’re doing in the back because, in general, I think that’s a good defense. We made some mistakes, but they weren’t horrendous mistakes.”

Godfrey’s shot from long range after a UNC turnover slipped inside the left post in the 72nd minute in what proved to be the game-winner.

“Someone like Godfrey is scoring that goal? That’s a quality goal from a big-time player,” Dorrance said.

UNC had second-half chances, including Sam Meza hitting a post and Emily Colton shooting just wide right on a golden chance, but couldn’t finish them.

“We were casual in possession. They stripped us, they counter-attacked very well and, boy, did they finish wonderfully,” said Dorrance, who compared Virginia’s shooting success to a basketball team shooting 65% from 3-pointer range. “They just finished their chances. But obviously, in the second half, they played a very good game. They were all over us.”

It was another game with defenders Julia Dorsey and Tori Hansen playing all 90 minutes. The momentum and the energy seemed to shift in the second half after Virginia didn’t get off a shot in the first half.

Virginia possessed the ball 55% of the time, the first time this season that a Carolina opponent has possessed the ball more.

“They just were beating us to first and second balls,” Dorsey said. “It looked like we were fatigued, honestly, and they were the team that wanted it more. I think we just didn’t match their energy in the second half. And that’s why the result ended up the way it was. I think everyone on the team fought hard at the end. But it wasn’t consistent throughout the second 45 minutes, which is just unfortunate because our first half was so awesome.”

Although Carolina suffered a 2–1 loss to UCLA, the UNC defenders and red-shirt freshman goaltender Emmie Allen dealt with big adversity for the first time this season.

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“They’re a very good team, and their outside backs were really pushing up, which caused our forwards and outside backs to run up and down the field and probably tired us out a little bit,” Dorsey said.

After giving up one goal in the first 504 minutes of her career, Allen — who has played every minute of the past three games — yielded three in 18 minutes to the Cavaliers on Saturday.

“We’ve got to see if we can bounce back from this in an effective way,” Dorrance said. “We did some things that we’ve got to improve upon. We did some things we were very happy with. So we sort of left disappointed in the loss but excited about the potential. Because our potential, which I’ve been excited about all year, it’s still there for us.”

Forward Avery Patterson, Carolina’s points leader, was a big part of the Tar Heels controlling the first half, attacking the left flank well against tough defenders and tallying her first two assists of the season as the Heels led 2–0 24 minutes into the match.



The first score snapped a shutout streak of 662 minutes and four seconds — the fourth-longest in Virginia program history.

After Virginia goaltender Cayla White knocked away a Patterson’s shot in the 14th minute, Emily Murphy pounced on the rebound for her fourth goal of the season. Red-shirt freshman Ally Sentnor, after taking a Patterson pass, made some incredible moves to juke Cavaliers defenders before rocketing it into the goal.

Dorrance said that Sentnor, who missed last season with an injury, raised her game a bit.

“That shows you know the sort of player she is,” he said. “You’re starting to see pieces of what makes her special because her goal was a real quality goal. Composure in the box, making decisions under pressure and then finishing.”

Virginia scored twice in the first 26 minutes of the second half to tie it. 

“Obviously I’m really proud of the team, not just that we got the result, but more because we dug down deep to fight our way back in it and we played the kind of soccer we needed to in order to create the chances we needed to score,” Virginia coach Steve Swanson said. “Anyone that follows the game knows how difficult it is to win at North Carolina, let alone being down by two goals at halftime. They put such pressure on you for 90 minutes; it was good to see us execute the way we did in the second half.”

Forward Rebecca Jarrett slipped a lightly struck shot just inside the right post in the 54th minute on an outstanding play. In the 61st minute, Dorsey headed Godfrey’s corner kick, and after the Cavs’ Lacey McCormack also headed it, Alexa Spaanstra knocked it in.

Dorrance recruited Godfrey and calls her one of the best players in the country.

“Everyone knew she was good,” Dorrance said. “And when she committed to Virginia, we knew that we were in trouble for four years with her. Not an easy finish turning across the box with pressure and just hammering it low into a corner. That’s an elite finish.”

NOTES: At halftime, 32 former UNC players, including Heather O’Reilly, were on the pitch. Eight members of the unbeaten 1992 NCAA championship team were honored. … Carolina visits Syracuse at 7 p.m. Thursday. … It wass Virginia’s first win over UNC since 2014. … UNC leads the all-time series with Virginia 39–5–5, but it’s 4–4–3 in the last 11 matches. … The Tar Heels are 30–6 all-time in ACC openers, including 10–4 in home league openers. … Last week, UNC midfielder Sam Meza earned ACC Defensive Player of the week and center back Tori Hansen made CollegeSoccerNews.com’s team of the week.

No. 7 Virginia 3, No. 2 UNC 2

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. 8 DukeDurham6–1–0
11SundayW, 2–1Central FloridaHome7–1–0
17SaturdayL, 3–2No. 11 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
6ThursdayW, 4–0No. 19 PittsburghHome10–3–0,
3–2–0 ACC
9SundayW, 2–0N.C. StateHome11–3–0,
4–2–0 ACC
14FridayW, 1–0Wake ForestHome12–3–0,
5–2–0 ACC
20ThursdayW, 2–1No. 5
Florida State
Tallahassee, Fla.13–3–0,
6–2–0 ACC
23SundayW, 4–0MiamiCoral Gables, Fla.14–3–0,
7–2–0 ACC
27ThursdayW, 1–0LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.15–3–0,
8–2–0 ACC
NovemberACC tournament
3ThursdayT, 0–0, 2 OTs (UNC advances 7–6 on PKs)Semifinal vs.
No. 8 Duke
Cary15–3–1
6SundayL, 2–1Final vs. No. 5 Florida StateCary15–4–1
NCAA tournament
12SaturdayW, 5–0First round:
Old Dominion
Chapel Hill16–4–1
17ThursdayW, 3–1Second round: Georgia Chapel Hill17–4–1
19SaturdayW, 3–2Third round:
No. 15 BYU
Chapel Hill18–4–1
26SaturdayW, 2–0Quarterfinals:
No. 4
Notre Dame
South Bend, Ind.19–4–1
DecemberCollege Cup
2Friday6 p.m.Semifinals: No. 5 Florida State CaryESPNU
5Monday6 p.m.ChampionshipCaryESPNU
X — Non-conference game.

Photo of Ally Sentor courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

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