CHAPEL HILL — Wake Forest made some history for its soccer program Sunday because Annick McBryar found the perfect time for a personal milestone.
McBryar, a redshirt junior midfielder, scored her first career goal off a corner kick in the opening minutes of the second half which proved to be the difference as 12th-ranked Wake Forest held off No. 7 North Carolina 2-1 at Fetzer Field.
It was the first victory for Wake (12-3-3, 6-2-1 ACC) over UNC (9-4-2, 5-3-1) since 2000 in a series the Tar Heels have dominated (25-2-2). The Deacons, who moved into a second-place tie in the ACC and dropped UNC into fifth place, had never won at Fetzer – in fact, they never had a lead there. But in their last three meetings with the Tar Heels, the Deacons own two ties and Sunday’s victory, which spoiled Senior Day festivities for 10 UNC seniors.
“This was the only place we hadn’t won on the road in the ACC,” Wake Forest coach Tony da Luz said. “This is a memorable win. In the first half I thought we were the better team and got a goal. In the second half they peppered us with set pieces, but our back four (defenders) were really rock solid.”
Wake Forest took the lead midway in the first half when Katie Stengel scored off a quick counterattack at 24 minutes, 8 seconds. It was her team-leading seventh goal of the season, and it came in only her 10th game since returning from a gold-medal triumph with the U.S. team in the Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.
The play started when Riley Ridgik won a ball in the midfield for Wake and played it to Kristen Meier, who immediately played a long ball ahead.
“They’re susceptible (to long balls) because they play a three-back system,” Stengel said of the Tar Heels. “To compensate for their high pressure, we tried to play it behind (the defense).”
Stengel, a junior who is already Wake Forest’s all-time leading scorer, got a step on UNC defender Crystal Dunn and launched a shot from the left flank that beat goalkeeper Adelaide Gay to the far post. It was the first goal that Gay had allowed in 421 minutes, spanning seven games.
“She’s just an amazing finisher,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said of Stengel. “If you give her half a chance, it’s in the back of the net.”
McBryar’s goal at 47:15 was more being in the right place at the right time. Rachel Nuzzolese sent in a corner kick that found McBryar making a run from the top of the penalty area, and the midfielder put it away in the right corner.
“Somebody might have flicked it to me from the near post, but it came to me like a magnet,” McBryar said. “When it goes to the near post, it draws (the defense), and that’s when the headhunters come in.”
By that juncture, Wake had registered only two shots, both goals.
“You don’t get a lot of chances, so you have to take advantage of them,” da Luz said.
The Tar Heels outshot the Deacons 8-3 for the game and picked up the pace in the second half, when they got off seven of their attempts. They finally broke through at 59:28, when Dunn’s long shot ricocheted off the crossbar and fell to Summer Green, who put away the rebound for her sixth goal of the season and first since rejoining the team four games ago after the Under-17 Women’s World Cup.
Over the final 30 minutes, UNC kept up the pressure, but Wake Forest goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe made all three of her saves. UNC had a 9-5 advantage in corner kicks, but Bledsoe repeatedly picked off balls played across by the UNC attackers.
“We served too many balls she could get,” Dorrance said. “She was brilliant.”