Nov. 27, 2009

Sidebar: Shutout Streak Ends For UNC In Win

By Neil Amato
Special to NCAA.com


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina rolled into another women's soccer final four, and veteran coach Anson Dorrance says the feeling never gets old.

The Tar Heels, one of the nation's top four seeds, defeated Wake Forest 5-2 on Friday at Fetzer Field, qualifying for the Women's College Cup for the 25th time in the 28 years the NCAA has sponsored women's soccer.

Dorrance has been there for the entire ride, which continues in College Station, Texas, next weekend as the Tar Heels try for their 20th NCAA championship.

"The older you get, you're wondering, `Is this my last trip. Will we ever have a team to get there again?'" Dorrance said. "The older you get, the more you appreciate these things. When you're young, it's sort of wasted on you. Now, I'm absolutely ecstatic."

He was ecstatic to see his team take it to a conference rival in a way it hadn't one week earlier. Against the Demon Deacons (16-6-2), the Tar Heels scored less than four minutes into the match and never wavered, even though an eight-game shutout streak came to an end.

In the third-round match against Maryland earlier in the month, the Tar Heels (21-3-1) didn't score until the 82nd minute, having to survive a 1-0 nailbiter.

Dorrance could see the team's improvement in practice, especially on scoring chances. Friday, on the game field, the finished product was excellent.

"We've had two weeks of excellent finishing," Dorrance said. "It didn't translate last week, but I think you could see it today. We only took 13 shots today and we scored five goals. That's a credit to how hard the girls have worked the past few weeks in practice. I'm convinced that finishing has been their focus."

Casey Nogueira, who had 25 goals a season ago, had struggled for much of the 2009 regular season, tallying just four times in the Tar Heels' first 16 games. Any talk of a Nogueira slump ended Friday.

She scored a two-way hat trick: three goals, one each with her left foot, right foot and head. She scored early, setting the tone. She scored late, finishing off the Deacons when they cut into a 3-0 halftime lead.

Nogueira couldn't explain why she's scoring more lately, though she's been known for goals in the postseason. She has eight goals in her last nine NCAA tournament games.

"I think things just started clicking a little bit more," she said. "I think as a senior I put a little more pressure on myself at the beginning of the season. As the season wore on and I wasn't scoring goals, and I was getting frustrated, I just kind of let that all go when NCAAs started, and it's been working a lot better."

Nogueira headed in a cross from Jessica McDonald in the fourth minute. Then in the 24th minute, teammate Courtney Jones put the Tar Heels ahead 2-0.

Jones turned on a bouncing pass from Lucy Bronze and volleyed a shot from the right side of the penalty box, stunning Wake Forest goalkeeper Amanda Barasha.

Wake Forest coach Tony da Luz said the goal handcuffed his team, which was playing against the wind in the first half.

"That's an unpredictable shot," da Luz said. "She hit it great. Our goalkeeper was a little out of position, and she just got caught off-step. It was a complete surprise. I'm disappointed that we gave up that second one, and that third one before halftime really killed it. You just can't give up three goals against Carolina and expect to win the game."

Indeed, the Demon Deacons never knew what hit them, on that shot and for the telltale first 45 minutes.

"I had a great angle on it," Dorrance said. "I just thought it was hit so hard that she just couldn't react. That ball was pummeled."