No. 7 Virginia women’s soccer (8-0-1, 1-0-0 ACC) sent a shockwave through the world of women’s college soccer Saturday night when it defeated No. 2 North Carolina (7-2-0, 0-1-0 ACC) by a score of 3-2.
The Tar Heels are seen as historically the most dominant team in the sport, with their 22 program national championships, and they are almost always in contention for another. Before this match, no team had ever beaten North Carolina in regulation after trailing by two goals.
However, this Cavalier team proved that they are set on making their own history, as they continue to chase the program’s first ever national championship. On an extraordinary night in Chapel Hill, N.C., Virginia announced its presence to the world as a true contender this season.
The Cavaliers struggled in the first half, as they watched the Tar Heels jump ahead to a two goal lead. Sure enough, North Carolina looked as dominant as advertised.
The Tar Heels got to business early on the offensive end, as star junior forward Avery Patterson fired a shot from the corner of the 18-yard box in the 14th minute. Senior goalkeeper Cayla White stopped the shot but pushed it right into the chest of sophomore forward Emily Murphy who controlled the ball before scoring into an empty net.
North Carolina doubled its lead when redshirt freshman Ally Sentnor took a pass from Patterson and used some nifty footwork to beat several Virginia defenders before firing a shot past White and into the goal. With the Tar Heels’ defense seeming unbreakable — preventing Virginia from even getting a shot off in the first half — a Cavalier win seemed nearly impossible.
However, something shifted at halftime for the Cavaliers, and they emerged a brand new team in the second half. Almost immediately, Virginia began pressing the North Carolina defense hard, and openings finally began to present themselves. Graduate student forward Rebecca Jarrett was the first to take advantage, with an unassisted goal in the 54th minute to start the Cavalier rally.
Coming from the right side, Jarrett took on multiple defenders and started cutting across the goal, drawing the keeper to the other side before hitting a shot to the lower right corner. Virginia later tied the game in the 61st minute on a corner kick. A Tar Heel player was unable to clear the ball away, and senior midfielder Lacey McCormack was able to head it towards the goal, where graduate student forward Alexa Spaanstra was waiting to head the ball into the back of the net.
North Carolina went on the attack after the game-tying goal, recording three shots in the next 10 minutes, but this time it was the Cavalier defense that held their ground. When Virginia had another opportunity in the 72nd minute, it took advantage of the moment. Freshman Maggie Cagle dribbled up on the left side before passing it back to junior midfielder Lia Godfrey, who launched a shot from outside the box for the eventual deciding goal.
As Godfrey’s shot snuck past the keeper, the crowd of nearly 4,000 — the Tar Heels’ second-largest of the season — fell into a stunned silence. The silence endured, as the Cavaliers were able to hold on for the last period of play to secure the historic victory.
Virginia’s first win over North Carolina since the 2014 season was one of the most impressive in Coach Steve Swanson’s career.
“Obviously I’m really proud of the team, not just that we got the result, but more because we dug down deep to fight our way back in it and we played the kind of soccer we needed to in order to create the chances we needed to score,” Swanson said. “Anyone that follows the game knows how difficult it is to win at North Carolina let alone being down by two goals at halftime.”
The Cavaliers will have to refocus quickly, as they will stay on the road to face No. 6 Notre Dame Thursday. That match will kick off from South Bend, Ind. at 7 p.m. and can be streamed on ACC Network Extra.