CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina exploded for seven second-half goals on Friday as it defeated Illinois 9-2 in the NCAA tournament second round before 1,003 fans at Fetzer Field. Seven different Tar Heel players scored goals and 10 different Tar Heels recorded assists in UNC’s biggest offensive output since the 2002 season.
With the victory, UNC improved to 12-5-2. Illinois’ season came to an end with a 10-9-4 record. The Tar Heels advance to play Big 12 Conference champion Baylor in the NCAA third round on Sunday. Baylor (19-1-4) overcame Georgetown 2-1 in overtime in the first game of the doubleheader.
Carolina’s nine-goal output was the most in a game since the Tar Heels defeated Guilford 9-0 on Sept. 6, 2002. It is the most against an NCAA Division I team for UNC since Sept. 21, 2001 when the Tar Heels beat Georgia 9-0. The nine goals tie the most by UNC in an NCAA tournament game. UNC most recently scored nine in an NCAA game on Nov. 21, 1996 when it beat Florida 9-0 in the NCAA quarterfinals. The nine goals were one short of the NCAA record for goals scored in a game held by Texas A&M, which scored 10 against Texas State in 2004.
Senior Alyssa Rich came off the bench to lead the Tar Heels with two goals and an assist. Kealia Ohai, Ranee Premji, Kelly McFarlane and Katie Bowen each had a goal and an assist. Summer Green added two assists. Kat Nigro scored her first career goal while both Paige Nielsen and Marina Nesic had their first career assists.
Just 1:29 into action, the Fighting Illini seized a 1-0 lead as Nicole Breeze took a through ball from Vanessa DeBernardo and finished from 15 yards past Adelaide Gay for a 1-0 Illinois lead. It marked the third time in the last four games the Tar Heels have surrendered a goal in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Just five minutes later, Summer Green took a shot from the top of the box that Illini goalkeeper Steph Panozzo was able to knock down. Kelly McFarlane pounced on the rebound to tie the game at one at 6:42. It was McFarlane’s first goal of the season as she took advantage of her first start since Sept. 13 against Maryland to make an early difference in the match.
Neither team scored again until the 36:13 mark, when a goal by Crystal Dunn sparked a five-goal scoring run over a period of 23:29. Alyssa Rich sent a through ball into the box and Dunn won the 50-50 ball battle with the goalie, finishing inside the near post at 36:13. It was Dunn’s second goal of the season and her second in two games.
The Tar Heels came out of halftime to notch two goals in the first five minutes of the half and four in the first 15 minutes of the second period. At 47:23, UNC’s lead went to 3-1 on an own goal by the Illinois defense. Dunn made a cross from the right side to the onrushing Ohai. Illinois defender Amy Feher got to the ball first and redirected Dunn’s cross into the lower left side of the goal. Two minutes later, Carolina made it 4-1 as Katie Bowen found herself unmarked on the back post, taking a pass from Ohai from the right side to finish from the three-yard line. Bowen’s second goal of the season, assisted by Ohai and Summer Green, made it 4-1 at 49:56.
The lead grew to four goals at 54:10 as Ohai finished a breakaway off an assist by Ranee Premji. Then at 59:42, Premji scored a goal of her own from 10 yards out after taking passes from Maria Lubrano and Kelly McFarlane.
The Illini countered with a score of their own at 62:50 as Niki Read notched her fourth goal of the year into the left side of the net. Megan Pawloski had the assist on the goal after serving a ball from the left wing.
Carolina scored three more goals as the margin continued to grow. Alyssa Rich scored her third goal of the season, taking a centering pass from Meg Morris to finish inside the far post. At 80:31, freshman Kat Nigro scored the first goal of her UNC career as her shot from the top of the box went in.
UNC finished off the scoring at 87:04 as Rich scored her second goal of the game, finishing off a sequence that began with a corner kick from the right side. Freshmen Paige Nielsen and Katie Bowen assisted on the goal.
Overall, the Tar Heels outshot the Fighting Illini 26-5. Steph Panozzo played the whole game in goal for Illinois and she made seven saves while allowing nine goals. Three goalkeepers split time for UNC — Adelaide Gay (52:45, 1ga, 0svs), Bryane Heaberlin (22:17, 1ga, 1sv) and Hannah Daly (14:58, 0ga, 0svs). UNC finished with a 2-1 edge in corner kicks. The game was clean throughout with the two teams combining for only seven fouls.