Early second-half surge sends No. 2 UNC into NCAA women’s soccer quarterfinals

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — No. 15 Brigham Young mostly held off No. 2 North Carolina’s offensive firepower for one half, but the Cougars withered against the Tar Heels’ constant pressure early in the second half.

Junior midfielder Avery Patterson assisted freshman forward Maddie Dahlien on two decisive second-half goals during that dominant stretch. The Tar Heels fired the first 10 second-half shots in the 13 minutes after halftime, then held on for a 3–2 victory Saturday in the third round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.

Carolina (18–4–1) faces the winner of Sunday’s Notre Dame-TCU game next weekend for a berth in the College Cup in Cary in its 16th quarterfinals game since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 2001.

“We knew coming into the second half that we wanted to bring the energy,” said Dahlien, who equaled her goal total for the season before Saturday and has three goals in three NCAA tournament games. “And I think we did a really good job. And I think that’s just applying our pressure. So, that was our job coming right out of the half.”

After plenty of UNC pressure in the game’s first 10 minutes, Talia Delaperuta broke through in the 13th minute on a quirky goal. She slipped through the weak side of BYU’s defense, took a nice pass from Isabel Cox and buried the shot.

BYU’s Olivia Wade tied it 5½ minutes later on a breakaway, sprinting downfield before slipping a left-footed shot to the right of UNC goalkeeper Emmie Allen.

Carolina’s back line did a good job keeping BYU to only one first-half goal, considering that the Cougars had possession 52% of the time. For the game, UNC had it 51% of the time.

“It was very tiring defensively, so we wanted to clean that up in the second half, and I think we did a great job,” Dahlien said.

Patterson said that the Tar Heels noticed BYU’s enthusiasm on the bench and wanted to come out in the second half and use that as fuel.

“So, the more they got excited, we got excited, and I think that took us to another different level,” said Patterson, who had a career-high three assists. “I think that us retaining possession more at the very beginning of that second half was big.”

UNC coach Anson Dorrance said he emphasized that his players had to position themselves more compactly in the second half.

“That BYU team has a lot of individual skill. So, every player on the field for BYU had the ability to keep the ball but also beat us off the dribble,” he said, pointing out the distance between his center forward and center back many times in the first half was 45 yards.

“They’re gonna pick us apart and play right through us,” Dorrance said. “And so what was critical is to basically make the game more compact because [if you] make it compact, they have no space in midfield. Their only option is to bang it over the top, and, of course, your goalkeeper picks it up. So, the main message we shared the half was to play with superior compaction.”

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The other dynamic playing out during the second half was UNC’s superior depth, which wore down the Cougars. Seven Tar Heels reserves played at least 13 minutes, while BYU only had three.

“They were exhausted, and we weren’t,” Dorrance said. “This is where our substitution patterns surfaced so well. Because those reserves in the last 15 minutes of the first half, I thought, played really well.”

Patterson is UNC’s leading scorer with 11 goals and eight assists, and Dorrance says he’s seen her game get better as the season has gone on.

“Her ability to score goals is certainly unique and very positive,” Dorrance said. “But her game intelligence isn’t anywhere near her goal-scoring ability, which is sort of a counterintuitive statement. What she was doing today and what she’s been doing the last month or so, is her decision-making is getting better and better and better. So, if you look at the goals we scored, a lot of those were set up through Avery Patterson and a lot of our attack went right through her.”

UNC retook the lead in the 58th minute when Patterson took a nice Emily Moxley pass. After BYU keeper Savanna Mason knocked away Patterson’s header at the doorstep, Dahlien pounced on the rebound.

Seven minutes later, that combination struck again as Patterson passed it to Dahlien as she slashed through the BYU defense, and she again made the Cougars pay.

“I knew that Avery is obviously willing to shoot, but I also knew from the first goal to be ready for either the cutback or deflection, so I was just on my toes, ready,” Dahlien said. “She passed it back, and I think the defender was square, so it just kind of added some deception.”

It helps that opponents worried about Patterson shooting also have to contend with her play-making ability.

“In the old days, Patterson would have figured out a way to shoot it and now what she’s doing, which is where game intelligence is jumping, is just figuring out how to involve her teammates,” Dorrance said. “She’s a brilliant dueler. She’s great in the air. She’s great in the one-v.-one duels offensively and defensively. But what she’s doing now, she’s learning to use her teammates. And so there’s a multiplication factor for her when she uses her teammates. As this piece starts to become a part of Avery Patterson’s game, the sky’s the limit with her growth.”

Patterson recognizes how much of a difference she can make when she’s finding open teammates, and said that she’s tried to become “more sophisticated when it comes to being inside the 18.” That wasn’t always the case.

“I think that other times I’ve been too selfish in that aspect with wanting to score and wanting to put the team on my back,” Patterson said. “But in terms of the right decision, I think it’s about getting a smarter shot off, not just the best option for myself.”

BYU (11–3–7) pulled within one five minutes after Dahlien’s second goal on a sensational Allie Fryer score on a tough angle.

NOTES — Carolina (17–4–1) faces the winner of Sunday’s Notre Dame-TCU game on either Friday or Saturday in the quarterfinals. If the No. 4-ranked and No. 1-seed Irish (15–2–3) win, the game will be in South Bend, Ind., and it will be in Chapel Hill if No. 17-ranked and No. 5 seed TCU (14–4–5) prevails. Dorrance said he’ll clearly be cheering for TCU. … All but two players on the BYU roster are from Utah. … BYU midfielder Olivia Smith was carried off after injuring her left leg in the 79th minute. … Patterson drew a yellow card in the 53rd minute. … UNC, which beat BYU 2–0 in an Aug. 13 exhibition, beat the Cougars for the second time in two meetings after winning 2–1 in double overtime at Provo, Utah, in the 2012 NCAA tournament quarterfinals in one of the Tar Heels’ national championship seasons. …  It was only the fifth time this season that Carolina has given up two or more goals… Carolina advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since the Heels did it for a third consecutive season in 2020. … Should Carolina win in the quarterfinals, it would play a national semifinal game in Cary on Friday, Nov. 2.

No. 2 UNC 3, No. 15 BYU 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 courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

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