Dorrance’s change with eye on national title, Sentnor fuel UNC win

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — Many Carolina players wore gloves on a night in the mid-30s, but the gloves were off when it came to throwing down the Tar Heels’ new, more aggressive approach.

Redshirt freshman forward Ally Sentnor, scoring twice for the second consecutive NCAA tournament game, was the main catalyst as No. 2-ranked UNC coasted to a 3–1 victory Thursday over No. 7-seed and unranked Georgia in the second round at Dorrance Field.

Coach Anson Dorrance deployed a setup with five midfielders and two attackers — Sentnor and Isabel Cox — for the first time this season, and the reason was pretty simple.

“You’ve got to figure out a way to try to win national championships again,” said Dorrance of what he called a 1–3–5–2 alignment that kept the Bulldogs (13–6–3) on their heels. That is only part of the reason that the legendary coach of 22 national champions made the change.

“It wasn’t just to beat Georgia,” Dorrance said. “We think it’s going to be a shape for us to try to beat some of the other top teams in the country. So, this was an intentional system change in order for us to see if we can compete to be the best team in the country.”

The No. 2-seed Tar Heels (17–4–1) face No. 6-seed BYU at 11:30 a.m. Saturday (ESPN+) in the third round at Dorrance Field. The No. 15-ranked Cougars (11–2–7) advanced past No. 3-seed and No. 7-ranked Stanford on penalty kicks 5–4 after a 1–1 tie in Friday’s first game. UNC beat BYU 2–0 in an Aug. 13 exhibition game.

“It gives us an opportunity to have a lot of people in the attacking box,” Dorrance said. “We have numbers up in midfield. If their four backs are dealing with my two forwards, we have numerical superiority in midfield.”

With plenty of pressure up front, the Bulldogs ultimately didn’t have enough answers after eluding disaster several times early. UNC possessed the ball on Georgia’s end of the field 56% of the time and outshot the Bulldogs 17–8.

Sentnor, who Dorrance said won’t be fully recovered from ACL surgery until February, exploited the new setup well.

“I’m really proud of us because we haven’t really trained a lot in that formation, and everyone really came out with great attitudes, and we stuck to the formation,” said Sentnor, who wasn’t fazed by the cold weather, having played many chilly high school games in Massachusetts. “And I think it really worked. We used every player, and people made unselfish runs for each other to help us score.”

Dorrance said that once Sentnor is fully recovered, she can be a goal-a-game player and praised her for being so coachable after she “gave the ball away playing one-touch” a couple of times in the first half.

“From the sideline, I instructed her to basically keep the ball for us,” Dorrance said. “Whenever the ball went to her, she didn’t lose it. So there’s a kid who, in the middle of the game, can change what she’s doing to help us win.”


Sentnor missed the exhibition games and the season opener while playing for the United States U20 team, so her talent is known on a national level.

“She can just grab the game by the throat and change it,” Dorrance said. “This is a special player. And as she gets more and more comfortable, she’s going to do special things.”

Sentnor, who didn’t have multiple goals in a game all season before scoring twice in the 5–0 first-round win over Old Dominion, fired wide right with a golden chance in the 85th minute with a shot at a hat trick.

“I shanked that one. That was horrible,” said Sentnor, who has four NCAA tournament goals after scoring five in the regular season.

After several minutes of sustained pressure and good chances, Sentnor was too much for Georgia on her second strong run of the first half. 

She took an Avery Patterson pass and, with her back to one defender, spun past her, then quickly dribbled by a second defender before booting it to the left side of the net past Georgia goalkeeper Jordan Brown in the 23rd minute.

“I think it was a great pass by Avery,” Sentnor said. “She beat the defender really well on the outside, creating space for her to play the ball to me. I just spun her, and I think [Emily Moxley] and [Emily] Colton making that run made space for me to dribble. So, once again, everyone making runs to kind of help me be able to score that goal.”

After UNC led 1–0 at halftime, Talia Dellaperuta took a Patterson pass and threaded it just inside the left post in the 51st minute.

“I was up on top, I saw Avery running inside and slipped it to me,” Dellaperuta said. “I was wide open. Avery played it perfectly, waited so I could hit it one time with my right foot. I was ready for that shot, and I was just so happy when I went in.”

Dellaperuta, from Cumming, Ga., and UNC goalkeeper Emmie Allen were the only players who wore long leggings over their legs to combat the cold.

“It’s not a fashion show,” Dellaperuta said. “Whatever is going to keep you the warmest. I know that my legs get tight in the cold, so I’m going to do what makes me feel the best on the field.”

Six minutes later, Isabel Cox made a nice leading pass past a defender to Sentnor, who buried a nicely placed left-footed shot past Brown into the right side of the goal to make it 3–0.

Georgia’s Madison Haugen spoiled Allen’s shutout in the 77th minute and led Dorrance to put all of his starters back in whom he was hoping to rest.

“We took a gamble up 3–0 and cleared the bench, and of course, they got back in it,” Dorrance said. “Up 3–1, you’re not comfortable anymore. They get another goal and they’re back in it. We were trying to figure out a way to rest for BYU.”

NOTES — Five Tar Heels made the College Sports Communicators Academic All-District team: seniors Julia Dorsey, Aleigh Gambone and Libby Moore, junior Patterson and sophomore Ruby Grant. To earn the honor, a player must be at least a sophomore and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. … Forward Sam Meza missed her second consecutive game with a stress fracture and was wearing a walking boot on her right foot. … BYU has a 13-game unbeaten streak with six ties and hasn’t lost since a 4–2 setback on Sept. 10 against Utah Valley. … UNC is 27–1 all-time in second-round games and is 20–1 since the field expanded to 64 teams. … Carolina is 96–7–2 all-time in home NCAA tournament games. … UNC is 5–0 all-time against Georgia and 10–4 against SEC teams in NCAA tournament play. … Games at all other NCAA women’s sites this weekend are on Friday and Sunday. The Chapel Hill games are the only ones on Thursday and Saturday because BYU doesn’t play on Sundays. … If UNC beats BYU, it would play a quarterfinal game Friday, Nov. 25, or Saturday, Nov. 26. If No. 1-seed Notre Dame (which plays Santa Clara on Friday night) advances, the Tar Heels would play in South Bend, Ind. Otherwise, that game would be at Dorrance Field. … UNC women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart was at the game with one of her kids.

No. 2 UNC 3, Georgia 1

(current rank)
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
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
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
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
2FridayW, 3–2Semifinals: No. 5 Florida State Cary20–4–1
5MondayL, 3–2, 2 OTsChampionship: No. 1 UCLACary20–5–1
X — Non-conference game.

Photo of celebration after Sentnor’s first goal courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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