Nearly two months had passed since her last goal when Summer Green got another in the first half against Syracuse on Sunday. And she knew it.
“It definitely felt good just to put a ball in the back of the net,” said Green, a junior at North Carolina. “It was a relief to finally score a goal.”
Not since Sept. 7 in a 2-1 win against Arkansas in the Duke Nike Invitational had Green scored a goal. The one against Syracuse was only her second of the season.
That’s a big statistical drop-off for Green, an All-ACC third-team pick last year, who logged nine goals and six assists as a freshman and seven goals and eight assists as a sophomore.
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However, there are signs that Green might be back on track. She also assisted on Paige Nielsen’s golden goal, which beat Syracuse 2-1 in overtime, and was named the ACC Player of the Week.
Green has three assists in her past four games, giving her six for the season, and UNC will need continued production from her when the second-seeded Tar Heels (12-2-2, 9-0-1) take on third-seeded Virginia (17-1-0, 9-1-0) in the ACC tournament semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at UNC Greensboro.
Top-seeded Florida State (16-1-1, 9-0-1) and fourth-seeded Notre Dame (12-4-2, 7-2-1) will meet in the first semifinal at 5:30, with the winners deciding the championship at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Green was even dropped from the starting lineup two weeks ago for what was then the biggest game of the season, the 1-1 tie with Florida State. However, she had an assist that night, which helped the Tar Heels share the ACC regular-season title with the Seminoles.
“The way I was playing, I don’t think I was playing to the best of my ability and deserved to be starting,” Green said.
“Summer has the potential to be a star,” coach Anson Dorrance said of the 5-foot-6 forward from Milford, Mich., who played in the U-20 Women’s World Cup this fall. “She has the ability to beat defenses on her own. She is a charismatic dribbler and has the ability to score with both feet.
“But for some reason she hasn’t gotten on track this year, until the Syracuse game. She was player of the week, and she can be that player every game.”
“I tend to overthink a lot,” Green said. “In a few of my games, I’d have a lot of shots, but they wouldn’t be on frame or not have enough power. I think when I get myself in those situations, I need to make the correct decisions.”
“Goal scoring is a really delicate and sometimes ephemeral art form,” Dorrance said. “Confidence makes up so much of a goal scorer’s prowess and effectiveness. So if you’re not scoring goals, it almost compounds the problem.”
Despite Green’s struggles, it’s been an enjoyable season for Dorrance, far exceeding expectations as graduation losses and season-ending injuries cost him 10 starters from a year ago.
After a stumbling start when the Tar Heels scored one goal in their first four games, they have gone unbeaten (11-0-1) in their past 12.
UNC and Virginia did not play in the regular season because of the ACC’s new unbalanced schedule, but Dorrance is very familiar with the Cavaliers, who are led by 2013 national player of the year Morgan Brian.
“We saw their game with Florida State, and even though Florida State beat them 1-0, we thought Virginia was the better team,” he said. “We know we’re going in as the underdog. There’s not a coach in the ACC that doesn’t think we’re the underdog.”
Besides the ACC tournament, Friday’s outcome might determine the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Virginia and UNC are ranked Nos. 4 and 5 in the coaches poll behind UCLA, Florida State and Stanford.
“I think this is a playoff, not just for advancement in the ACC tournament, but Virginia needs this for a resume builder,” Dorrance said. “Their nonconference schedule was very weak. They need it more for their RPI than we do. But we need it if we want to have a shot at a No. 1 seed.”