No. 3 UNC runs riot against women’s soccer

The Trojans lost 4-0 in the second game of its top 25 North Carolina road trip.

The Trojans ended the weekend on a sour note after losing to UNC and split their trip in North Carolina. (Robert Westermann / Daily Trojan)

A road trip that started with euphoria has ended in defeat.

In the second game of its journey to North Carolina, the USC women’s soccer team fell 4-0 to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels Sunday afternoon.

Traveling to play UNC and Duke was always going to be a challenge for this Trojan team. The United Soccer Coaches Division I soccer poll ranked the two ACC programs at No. 3 and No. 4 in the country, respectively. But when USC shocked the Blue Devils with a 3-1 victory Thursday, expectations for the season rightfully rose.

In Chapel Hill, though, those expectations may have come back down to Earth.

On a hot day (almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff), USC appeared a bit lethargic and dull in attack, struggling to create any shots of consequence.

UNC dominated possession right from kickoff, which would not necessarily have been an issue for USC, but even on the counterattack, the Trojans found themselves trapped by UNC’s counter-pressing. The Tar Heels played multiple through balls into space in the opening exchanges, but USC’s backline held up well against the initial pressure. On two occasions, graduate center back Kayla Duran appeared to be in trouble, but her speed allowed her to reach the ball ahead of any UNC attacker.

With the degree to which UNC controlled the ball, they would inevitably create shots. Midway through the first half, UNC had already taken five shots, while USC had zero. The combination of redshirt sophomore forward Ally Sentnor and freshman forward Olivia Thomas were repeatedly a threat for the Tar Heels, and a goal finally arrived in the 25th minute.

Senior defender Zoe Burns had stepped forward from her right back position to pressure UNC senior midfielder Avery Patterson, leaving space behind Burns on UNC’s left wing. The Tar Heels played the ball into Sentnor, who had drifted into the area Burns had left open, while Duran hadn’t shifted over in time to defend Sentnor. Sentnor dribbled rapidly across the top of the box and unleashed a thundering strike that went over freshman goalkeeper Hannah Poulter’s outstretched arm, kissing the crossbar on its way in.

The Trojans held on to the one-goal deficit until halftime, with freshman midfielder Florianne Jourde subbing in for junior midfielder Aaliyah Farmer for USC’s first change of the game, but the attack didn’t find any momentum. Jourde was also Head Coach Jane Alukonis’ first substitute against Duke, suggesting the Canadian midfielder has made a big impression in training. Going into the half, UNC had posted 12 shots, and USC still hadn’t created a single shooting opportunity.

After about 20 minutes into the second half, UNC had coasted to a 3-0 lead, and the game felt out of reach for USC. Freshman midfielder Evelyn Shores scored a quickfire double for UNC, both goals resulting from the Tar Heels’ tidy passing.

For Shores’ first goal, sophomore forward Kate Faasse isolated herself against USC’s senior forward Angeles Escobar, who started the game in defense at left back, dribbled a step past Escobar and crossed low into Shores’ feet, who tapped it home first-time.

The second goal was the result of equally impressive combinations, but Shores’ shot on goal was rather tame. Sophomore goalkeeper Hannah Dickinson, who had subbed in for an injured Poulter, bobbled Shores’ shot and the ball bounced over Dickinson’s shoulder, trickling into the net. As the ball leaked through Dickinson’s grasp and across the goal line, the Trojans’ fate seemed sealed.

UNC added its fourth in the 88th minute, with Duran giving up an unfortunate penalty against sophomore forward Tori Dellaperuta. Dellaperuta dispatched the penalty without fuss. UNC finished the game with 25 shots, while USC only mustered five and just one on target.

If it makes any difference to USC (and surely it won’t), the game’s result was more about the infallibility of its opponents than USC’s failings on the day.

“Carolina just absolutely played their best soccer game of the season,” said ACC Network color commentator Kyle Straub after the match.

UNC redshirt senior defender Maycee Bell told the Tar Heel Tribune how her team prevented USC from progressing the ball.

“They’re not able to transition,” Bell said. “And that was one of the things that, coming into this game, we really wanted to not let them do … I thought the midfield did a great job with that.”

It was a somber performance following the triumph against Duke, but USC will have an opportunity to bounce back against future Big Ten rival Purdue on Thursday. The game will kick off at 3 p.m. at McAlister Field.

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