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UNC women’s soccer team heads to the ACC tournament final game
By Kip Coons
November 02, 2018 09:33 PM
Anson Dorrance believes in playing his bench. On Friday night, the North Carolina women’s soccer coach’s strategy resulted in a victory in the ACC tournament.
Freshman midfielder Rachel Dorwart came off the bench to score her second goal of the season and lift top-seeded North Carolina to a 1-0 victory over fifth-seeded Clemson in the semifinals of the ACC championship on a rainy Friday night.
“There’s a difference between what we do and what everyone else does,” Dorrance said. “We play our depth. If we recruit a kid, we play her. It’s a unique concept, I guess.
“I recruited Rachel Dorwart, and I’m going to invest in her. And she paid me back today.”
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The Tar Heels (19-2-1), ranked third nationally, will play for their record 22nd ACC tournament title at noon Sunday when they meet either third-seeded Virginia or seventh-seeded Florida State in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
UVa (15-3-0) and FSU (13-4-2) played in the second semifinal late Friday night.
It was the second time this season that UNC had beaten Clemson (12-8-0), ranked No. 23, by a 1-0 count. The regular-season meeting came on Sept. 23 at Clemson.
“I’m ecstatic to beat a very good Clemson team,” Dorrance said. “They’re very hard to score on, which we found out for the second time this year.”
The Tar Heels dominated play in a scoreless first half, outshooting Clemson 8-1 with a 7-0 advantage in corner kicks. Clemson goalkeeper Sandy MacIver only had to make one save, however. The Tigers did not register their shot until the final seconds of the half. UNC ended up with a 10-4 edge in shots and 9-2 in corners.
The Tar Heels finally broke through in the 65th minute. Dorwart, who had re-entered the match only four minutes earlier as a substitute, fed fellow freshman Rachel Jones with a pass to the left side of the penalty area and then hustled forward to take the return pass and slide her shot inside the near post.
“When I played the ball wide, I just knew Rachel was going to beat the girl and get a cross in like she has all season,” Dorwart said. “I had to do my job of getting in front of the defender and winning that ball.”
Clemson nearly leveled the match five minutes later. Kimber Haley’s shot from distance caromed off the crossbar, and Dani Antieau’s follow was blocked by a UNC defender.
UNC goalkeeper Samantha Leshnak, who entered the match with the lowest goals-against average in the nation at 0.167, registered UNC’s 13th shutout of the season, making one save.
Dorrance’s depth was somewhat limited against Clemson because of injury and absence.
Sophomore defender Emily Fox is in Europe with the U.S. women’s national team, which will play friendlies against Portugal and Scotland in the next two weeks.
Sophomore forward Alessia Russo, the ACC offensive player of the year, is out with a broken leg that she suffered in the regular-season finale against Wake Forest. And Jones has been nursing a leg injury, although she saw 21 minutes against Clemson, including the biggest moment of the game.
“You’re never going to hear me whine about anything or lay a list of excuses,” Dorrance said. “I don’t accept that from any of my players, and I certainly won’t allow myself to do that either. We have a 30-player roster for a reason. It’s a contact sport. We’re going to survive it because we play our roster.”
Clemson coach Ed Radwanski said he wasn’t surprised by the low-scoring result.
“They’re a very opportunistic team,” he said of the Tar Heels. “They got their opportunity and found a way to score. I go back to the last three games with them, all 1-0 games. They’ve taken advantage of that moment, and I give them full credit for that.
“We had our moment, and unfortunately it didn’t go in.”
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