Both North Carolina soccer teams found ways to win Friday night.
The eighth-ranked UNC women raced to a three-goal lead early in the second half, then buckled down defensively against No. 5 Virginia Tech to hold on 3-2 for their sixth straight victory in a key ACC game Friday at Fetzer Field.
The match was part of a distaff doubleheader, with the No. 9 UNC men overhauling Clemson 3-2 in the nightcap on a penalty kick by Raby George with 8:43 left in the second overtime. The Heels got a goal and an assist off the bench from defender Walker Hume to break a three-game losing streak.
A month ago, the North Carolina women (7-2-1, 4-0 ACC) were struggling to score goals. Now they’re getting them in bunches. They have scored 13 goals over the six wins after netting only one in their first four outings. Conversely, the Hokies (11-2, 2-2) had allowed only five before Friday.
Never miss a local story.
Megan Buckingham and Sarah Ashley Firstenberg scored to give the ACC-leading Tar Heels a 2-0 halftime lead, and Joanna Boyles made it 3-0 less than three minutes into the second half.
Then the unthinkable almost happened. UNC nearly blew a 3-0 lead, which had happened only once in school history – in 1986, a 3-3 tie with George Mason.
“Everyone stopped playing, started following their own agenda,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said with some exasperation. “They were trying to make their own highlight reel.”
The Hokies answered quickly, with Candace Cephers heading one in off a corner kick a minute after Boyles struck. Ten minutes later, ACC scoring leader Murielle Tiernan got her ninth goal after Ashley Meier found a seam in the middle of the UNC defense and slid a pass into the penalty area.
“This is a good Virginia Tech team,” Dorrance said. “They came in 11-1, ranked in the top 10 and scoring goals in buckets. Despite the collapse, we turned and made a stand.”
Boyles said the youthful Tar Heels, who lost six starters to graduation and four more to season-ending injuries, are finding their groove.
“I think I’m just trying to play a little more relaxed,” said Boyles, a Sanderson High grad who shares the team goal-scoring lead with the freshman Buckingham at three. “I’m settling down, getting into my role.”
Her goal, which proved to be the game-winner, came when Munerlyn, who had two assists, laid off a back pass after beating Virginia Tech goalkeeper Caroline Kelly to a loose ball.
With Kelly down on the ground, Boyles knew she had plenty of time, despite a sharp angle.
“If I keep it on frame, it’s a goal,” she said. “But it’s easy to miss them from that position. Believe me, I’ve missed them.”
The UNC men’s problem has been denying goals. Since junior center back Jonathan Campbell has been sidelined with a leg injury, the Tar Heels (6-4, 2-2) have allowed eight goals in three games compared with four in the first seven games.
Clemson (5-5, 2-2) went up 2-0 in the first half on goals by Diego Campos and Austen Burnikel that resulted from UNC defensive miscues – the only shots the Tigers had in the half. The Tar Heels got one back by halftime when freshman forward Zach Wright scored his first career goal, coming off a throw-in by Nick Williams that was also assisted by Hume.
Hume finally supplied the equalizer at 77:46 when the Rollins College transfer scored his second goal of the season on a left-footed drive from the top of the penalty area. After a scoreless first overtime, UNC’s David October was taken down as he drove into the left side of the penalty area. George converted the penalty kick for his first goal of the season at 1:01:16.
UNC outshot Clemson 19-5, but Andrew Tarbell had a career-high eight saves for the Tigers. UNC’s Brendan Moore did not have a save.