ND Women’s Soccer
No. 24 Notre Dame ties No. 4 North Carolina to finish regular season
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, October 27, 2017
The No. 24 Irish traveled to North Carolina on Thursday night to take on the fourth ranked UNC Tar Heels in their final ACC regular season match. North Carolina (12-2-2, 8-0-2 ACC) came into the match second in the ACC, and hasn’t lost a match since Sept. 7.
Despite the tough opposition, the Irish (9-5-4, 5-3-2) played strong soccer throughout the entirety of the game. Notre Dame controlled possession in the first 45 minutes, and senior goalkeeper Lexi Nicholas showcased her experience by anchoring a stifling Irish back line. The Tar Heels found little room to work with offensively in the first half, and only managed four shots.
The Irish looked to catch the Tar Heels on the break, attacking the defense with a series of runs and through ball attempts and playing fast, counter-attacking soccer. Neither team broke through in the first half, but in the 58th minute, the Irish offense got exactly the break it needed. Graduate student midfielder Sandra Yu made a run up the right side, bursting past a defender with speed. Yu found sophomore Jennifer Westendorf streaking past the defense and fed her a through ball, with Westendorf slotting the ball past the helpless goalie for her career-high ninth goal of the season.
The Irish kept the ball deep in North Carolina’s territory to protect the one goal lead, holding onto possession for much of the final 32 minutes away from threatening positions near the Irish net, with the Tar Heels becoming increasingly desperate as the half wore on.
On what could have been the final possession of the game, North Carolina launched a desperation cross into the box that deflected off an Irish defender out of bounds over the goal line, leading to a corner kick for the Tar Heels. On their last chance of regulation, the corner kick sailed into the box and into the net off the head of Tar Heel sophomore forward Bridgette Andrzejewski, hitting off the cross bar and down into the net for the equalizing goal. The Irish were seconds away from a huge win over a storied rival, but suddenly had to brace for overtime.
North Carolina held the ball for much of the first 10-minute overtime, with the Irish looking somewhat stunned from the last-minute concession. The Irish defended a threatening corner kick well and held North Carolina off the board to enter the second overtime period tied at 1-1. Both teams generated shots on goal in the second half, but neither team could convert on its chances. The Irish were forced to settle for a draw.
The draw pushes Notre Dame currently into a tie for the fifth spot in the ACC, and will await the news on who they will face in the ACC quarterfinals on Sunday at 1 p.m.