CARY, N.C. — No. 3 North Carolina and No. 11 Boston College competed in what seemed like a post-season atmosphere Thursday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park with the Tar Heels prevailing 1-0 and in the process inching closer to clinching their first undisputed conference regular-season championship since 2010.
Alessia Russo scored off a turnover just 5:18 into the match and it held up for the game-winner in a match in which both teams threatened the add to the scoreboard up to the final whistle.
With the win, UNC has now won eight straight matches and it needs one more win the clinch the ACC regular-season championship outright. The Tar Heels are now 13-2-1 overall and 8-0-0 in the league. Boston College lost for only the second time this season and is now 13-2-1 overall and 5-2-1 in the league.
The Heels took a 1-0 lead early, and then the defensive battle began! Check out Alessia Russo's team-leading sixth goal of the season and more highlights below as the team shut out Boston College to remain unbeaten in ACC play! pic.twitter.com/DgeSAC6Ipo— UNC Women's Soccer (@ncwomenssoccer) October 18, 2018
Duke beat Louisville Thursday night in Durham, allowing it to stay in the race with the Tar Heels. Duke is 6-1-1 in league action. But a win by Carolina either this Sunday versus Miami at 1 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park or next Thursday versus Wake Forest at 6 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park clinches the title for the Tar Heels.
UNC's last undisputed ACC crown was 2010 when the Tar Heels finished league play 8-2. In 2014, UNC shared the conference regular-season crown with a 9-0-1 mark.
The Tar Heels scored the game-winning goal at 5:18 of the match as Alessia Russo notched her team-leading sixth goal of the season. Boston College goalkeeper Alexis Bryant mishit her goal kick and Russo ran on to the ball about 28 yards from the goal, dribbled into the box and finished craftily into the lower right corner as Bryant came out to cut down the angle.
Moments later Samantha Leshnak made a save on a shot by Sam Coffey, one of only two shots by BC that was on frame in the match despite the fact the Eagles took 12 shots overall. Both teams attacked each others' goal frames with gusto for the remainder of the half with BC taking six first half shots and North Carolina taking eight. At 17:35, Olivia Vaughn almost earned the equalizer as her shot from in the box on the left side clanged off the cross bar. Her rebound eight seconds later was blocked as UNC dodged a bullet and held on to its lead.
Full recap of Carolina's important ACC win over BC 1-0 Thursday afternoonhttps://t.co/qklmUYgKi6— UNC Women's Soccer (@ncwomenssoccer) October 18, 2018
In the second half, the Tar Heels had seven shots on goal to six for BC. In the second half, despite being constantly peppered, Leshnak had to make only one save officially, stopping a shot by Jenna Bike just three minutes into the second half. Bryant made two second-half saves on shots by Russo and another on an attempt by Rachel Jones. Carolina was eventually able to celebrate its victory after a last gasp effort by the Eagles' Kayla Duran flew high of the goal with 21 seconds to play.
Altogether, UNC outshot the Eagles 15-12, including a margin of 5-2 in shots on goal. The Tar Heels had eight corner kicks in the match in comparison to two for the Eagles. UNC was charged with 10 fouls and Carolina just six.
Alexis Bryant played all 90 minutes in goal for BC, making four saves and allowing just the one goal. She is now 13-2-1 on the season. Samantha Leshnak improved her goalkeeper record to 8-0-0 overall, playing all 90 minutes and making two saves. She now has three solo shutouts this season.
UNC improved to 18-1 overall against Boston College and has won seven straight games in the series. This was the fifth time in those seven games that Carolina has prevailed by a 1-0 margin.