The NC State women’s soccer team fell to UNC-Chapel Hill 3-0 in the semifinals of the ACC Championship at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday evening.
“Disappointing result,” said head coach Tim Santoro. “They were better tonight, and deserve to win. We'll get ready to play in the NCAAs next week.”
It was one-way traffic for a majority of the game, with the top-seeded Tar Heels outshooting the fifth-seeded Wolfpack 21-3 across the 90.
A majority of the Tar Heels’ most threatening chances, including the first two goals, came on the counterattack. The first came just eight minutes into the match when English forward Alessia Russo and forward Isabel Cox combined to break down the Wolfpack backline, and Russo grabbed her first of two goals in the match.
“We expected them coming out very fast from the start,” redshirt sophomore defender Lulu Guttenberger said. “We didn't deal with it how we wanted to. And that's disappointing for us because we're good enough to play those teams in the right way. They have athleticism all over the field. We didn't quite compete with that today and didn’t keep the ball enough, which gave them opportunities. Quality finishes, we have to give that to them.”
While the Tar Heels managed to grab one early, thanks to a combination of junior keeper Jessica Berlin, who made seven saves on the day, and some solid last-ditch defending by the center backs, the Wolfpack managed to keep the game at 1-0 for the remainder for the first half.
It did not take the Tar Heels long in the second half to build on their lead as yet another counterattack gave them a goal just five minutes into the second half. With Cox pulling the strings again, a trio of Tar Heels forwards broke into the box and the ball eventually fell to midfielder Rachel Jones for the goal.
The Tar Heels added a third and final goal in the dying minutes of the match as Russo grabbed her second of the game, capitalizing on a Wolfpack turnover.
Santoro made multiple tactical adjustments throughout the match including flipping the entire backline and switching the positions of seniors forward Tziarra King and midfielder Paige Griffiths in the second half. While the changes worked for limited stretches, the ACC regular-season champions proved to be too much for the Wolfpack.
“We made a couple of adjustments to offset some things that were going on,” Santoro said. “We had a good portion of the first half of those last 25 minutes but the game 90 minutes, we weren't good enough tonight for 90 minutes."
The Wolfpack’s next opponent is not yet determined as it will be in the NCAA Championship which will not be selected until Monday, Nov. 11 at 4:30 p.m. The Pack is a lock for the tournament and likely to host in the early rounds as the Pack put on a solid showing in the toughest conference in women’s college soccer
“We are in,” Santoro said. “Our RPI is 20 and probably will go up even losing tonight, so I expect a home game. We will rest up and I think we were good enough to make a run.”