Friday was a day of firsts for two local players in the second round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament at Fetzer Field.
Maya Worth, a sophomore midfielder from Green Hope in Cary, scored her first career collegiate goal. The overtime golden goal secured a 1-0 victory for second-seeded North Carolina over Colorado.
Abbey Crider, a freshman goalkeeper from Pinecrest in Pinehurst, might have outdone her. Crider made her first career start a memorable one, shutting out Seattle 0-0 and making two saves in a penalty kick shootout to help third-seeded South Carolina advance.
The Tar Heels (14-3-2) and Gamecocks (13-5-5) will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday on Fetzer Field in the third round of the tournament. The winner will play either No. 1 seed Florida State or Central Florida next weekend in the NCAA quarterfinals, one round from college soccer’s final four, the College Cup.
Depth would be the story line for this matchup. UNC coach Anson Dorrance has championed his bench all season, which has scored 17 of UNC’s 31 goals. He utilized 21 players against Colorado and opened the overtime with six reserves on the field, a tactic that also worked in a 3-2 double overtime victory at Notre Dame during the regular season.
“There was no hesitation,” Dorrance said after the game. “And if the reserves couldn’t do it, the starters would come back in rested and fresh.”
The starters weren’t needed. Worth stuck in the rebound of her blocked header for the golden goal in the 95th minute. Danae O’Halloran, another reserve midfielder, set up the goal by crossing a pass into the penalty area.
“I wanted to do it for our seniors,” Worth said. “I kind of had the realization right before overtime started that this could be the last time. We wanted to send our seniors out on top.”
South Carolina coach Shelley Smith will see her team’s depth tested again against the Tar Heels. Crider will make an encore start in relief of All-SEC goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo. And Smith will have to find a replacement for All-SEC center back Taylor Leach, who received a red card against Seattle and will have to sit out the match.
“We have players on this roster for a reason, to come in and pick up where we need them to,” Smith said. “(It’s) unfortunate to lose someone like Taylor, a key part of our defense, a senior leader for us. But Paige Bendell stepped in when we needed her to, and she’s done a great job all year. It’s what she’s been training for and preparing for.
“It’s the same thing with Abbey. We lost Sabrina D’Angelo to an (arm) injury this week, had to put her in a very important game as a freshman goalkeeper, and she came up huge for us.”
Crider made three saves during regular play against Seattle, the third-highest scoring team in the nation, and saved two penalty kicks while taking part in the first shootout of her career. Two other kicks missed the frame and South Carolina won the shootout 2-1.
Crider, who played her club soccer locally for the CASL ’95 Elite Ladies, was told Wednesday she would be starting.
“My preparation for the game was different and my mentality was different because I would start,” she said. “I knew all my friends were coming to see me play. It just made it that much bigger.”