The No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer team saw its eight-game winning streak come to an end Sunday in a back-and-forth 2-2 tie against ACC rival No. 6 North Carolina.
Despite two more goals from senior forward Caroline Miller, which put her in a tie atop the ACC goals leaderboard with teammate freshman forward Makenzy Doniak, the Tar Heels (4-2-2, 0-1-1 ACC) could not be defeated.
North Carolina capitalized on its chances to become the first team to score multiple goals against the Cavaliers (8-1-1, 1-0-1 ACC) this season. Virginia had allowed just two goals in its previous eight games combined, but the Tar Heels matched that total with two breakaway goals in a span of 30 minutes.
Virginia seemed poised to score first in the 42nd minute as Doniak fired a shot from the top of the box toward goal, but the ball just missed high over the crossbar. One minute after Doniaks’ near-miss, North Carolina junior forward Kealia Ohai took a through ball from freshman midfielder Reilly Parker and easily beat junior goalkeeper Danielle DeLisle to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
“You never like to lose momentum like that in the first half,” coach Steve Swanson said of Ohai’s goal. “I felt we were a pass away … from getting in behind and getting chances, and we emphasized that point [at halftime], that if we can just take care of the ball, and just make one better pass, it could make a difference.”
In spite of Ohai’s late goal, the first-half star for the Cavaliers was DeLisle, who made two crucial saves to keep the score close.
“Danielle played superb today,” coach Steven Swanson said. “I thought she was the difference maker.”
After a relatively poor first half by Virginia’s normally potent offense, the halftime adjustments Swanson made translated into immediate success for the attack out of the break. Miller received the key pass from senior forward Erica Hollenberg in the 49th minute and dodged freshman goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin to tie the score at 1-1.
Five minutes later, Miller was back at it, taking a pass from sophomore midfielder Morgan Brian — back on the field for the first time this season after playing with the U-20 World Cup team — and once again beating Heaberlin to give the Cavaliers the lead.
Miller’s outburst gave her an eighth career and second consecutive multi-goal game, leaving her with four goals in just two ACC games so far.
“ACC time is really the time when you want to show off … everyone knows they’re going to be 10 times harder than the pre-ACC games,” Miller said.
The Cavaliers looked primed to earn their second win all-time against the Tar Heels, but Ohai matched Miller’s performance with a game-saving second goal. In the 73rd minute, Ohai scored another breakaway tally to tie the game at 2-2 and snap Virginia’s lengthy win streak.
“[Ohai’s] dangerous, and she’s such a workhorse,” Swanson said. “I didn’t like some of the positions we put ourselves in against her. We learned a lot from this game, especially our back line.”
Both teams scrambled for the rest of regulation searching for a potential go-ahead goal to no avail. In the 87th minute, Brian launched a header off of a corner kick, but Heaberlin made the save. In the first period of overtime, the only shot came from Virginia junior defender Molly Menchel, who launched an ambitious strike from the top of the box only to see it sail just over the crossbar.
“I thought they did a great job,” Swanson said. “We got the lead, and obviously we were in a good position, but we didn’t handle the pressure well. I thought we just turned it over too easily at times, and that led to their second goal.”
Even though the Cavaliers failed to win for the first time in almost a month, they were able to extend their unbeaten streak to nine games against their toughest opponent to date.
“I think getting a point against this team, in the end, we’ll look back and feel good about it,” Swanson said. “Given the way the game went, we both can come away and say we [earned] a point.”