RALEIGH — North Carolina accomplished something Thursday night it hadn’t done all season – rally from behind for a victory.
The eighth-ranked Tar Heels got two second-half goals from Kealia Ohai and one each from Amber Brooks and Summer Green to overcome N.C. State 4-1 in front of 1,400 fans at Dail Soccer Field.
With the victory, North Carolina (10-4-2, 6-3-1) clinched fourth place in the ACC and will host Virginia in Sunday’s conference tournament quarterfinals.
The Tar Heels and Cavaliers tied for fourth place, but North Carolina was awarded the home game on goal differential (11-10). The teams tied 2-2 in the regular season.
The Tar Heels were 0-3 this season after trailing at halftime and 0-4 when their opponent scored first.
For 65 minutes, it looked like the Wolfpack might get its first win against the Tar Heels in 10 years in a series North Carolina now leads 42-1-2.
“I think the kids knew they could play better than they did in the first half,” Tar Heels coach Anson Dorrance said. “And they showed it. They played with great heart.”
Freshman forward Caroline Gentry scored from 15 yards only 5 minutes, 18 seconds into the match on the Wolfpack’s first shot of the game, a 1-0 lead that N.C. State (5-14, 0-10) nursed 20 minutes into the second half.
Midfielder Cheyenne Spade controlled the ball in transition and played it down the right side to Gentry. A former Leesville Road High standout, she got behind the defense and beat goalkeeper Adelaide Gay into the lower left corner for her second goal of the season.
“Getting up a goal was good for us,” Wolfpack coach Steve Springthorpe said. “It gave our team some confidence. That hasn’t happened much this year.”
However, the Wolfpack couldn’t make it stand up, despite 13 saves by redshirt goalkeeper Victoria Hopkins. North Carolina outshot N.C. State 28-7 – 16-3 in the second half – and an attack Dorrance termed “relentless” turned more direct after intermission.
Both of Ohai’s goals came on long balls, one by Crystal Dunn and the second by Rachel Premji where the speedy Ohai ran past the defenders to net her fifth and sixth goals of the season at 65:08 and 78:32.
“We’re definitely faster than most teams,” Dorrance said. “We wanted to put more pressure on the defense.”
Brooks scored her sixth goal on a header off a corner kick at 82:34, and Green’s seventh goal, which clinched home field, came on a long ball from Brooks at 87:47.
“In a game like that, you’re trying to stay composed and not get frustrated,” said Ohai, who also had an assist on Brooks’ goal. “They have a great keeper. It was tough to keep the ball away from her.”