As it turned out, there wasn’t much wrong with the North Carolina women’s soccer team that winning another championship couldn’t solve.
The 14th-ranked Tar Heels struck for two first-half goals and held off No. 18 Arkansas 2-1 to win the Duke Nike Classic on Sunday at Koskinen Stadium. No. 7 Penn State edged No. 19 Duke 4-3 in the second half of the doubleheader to deny the Blue Devils at least a share of the championship.
Because of the loss of eight starters from a year ago leading to some early-season struggles on offense, UNC (3-2-1) entered Duke’s tournament with a losing record but proved the class of the field by the end. UNC beat Penn State 1-0 in double overtime Friday, when Duke blanked Arkansas 3-0.
“We’re starting to get honed,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. “We’re starting to figure some things out. A lot of the young kids are starting to get it together. So I know where we can be. I don’t think this will be a finished product, even by NCAA tournament time. But we’re going to be a handful.”
Junior forward Summer Green was a handful for the Razorbacks to contend with. She had a team-high five shots, including her first goal of the year at the 16-minute, 20-second mark, a strike from 16 yards on the wing. Arkansas goalkeeper Cameron Carter made two of her five saves against Green, who also banged an attempt off the crossbar.
Green had nine goals last year but a hamstring injury kept her out of one game this season.
After Margaret Power tied it up for Arkansas (3-2-1) with a nifty side volley from 12 yards two minutes later, UNC’s depth on offense turned the tide. Katie Bowen drove the ball into the penalty area and slipped a pass into the right corner to freshman Jewel Christian, whose cross found fellow freshman Annie Kingman waiting to bury the shot in the left corner of the net for her first goal at 38:30.
“I think our depth is legit,” Dorrance said. “We can literally go 16, 17 players deep, and there’s not that big a difference between player 17 and player 11. The subs basically won the game for us, because we scored with all of our (offensive) reserves on the field.”
UNC outshot Arkansas 22-4 and dominated the second half. Bryane Heaberlin recorded only one save for UNC, and that came in the second minute.
Penn State (4-1) got its game-winner at 83:27, when Emily Hurd’s cross found Raquel Rodriguez making a run into the penalty area. Duke (3-3) had rallied from one-goal deficits three times on goals by Kelly Cobb – her third of the tournament and fourth of the season – Rebecca Quinn and Christina Gibbons. A penalty kick by Gibbons at 68:20 drew Duke even for the final time.
“This is a tough one to swallow,” said coach Robbie Church, whose Blue Devils outshot Penn State 20-14. “We did a lot of things well, especially offensively. But I’m really disappointed defensively. We’ve got work to do on the defensive end. We gave up a couple soft goals, and you can’t do that against a quality opponent.”
The Blue Devils’ struggles were underscored by Penn State’s third goal. Duke goalkeeper Ali Kershner, who had four saves, appeared to have a bead on a cross by Hurd but collided with teammate Lizzy Raben as she tried to gain possession. Frannie Crouse pounced on the loose ball and flicked it into an open net for Penn State.
Cobb was named the offensive most valuable player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Duke teammates Gibbons and Toni Payne. UNC midfielder Brooke Elby was the defensive MVP, with Green and defenders Satara Murray and Jessie Scarpa of the Tar Heels also earning all-tournament honors.