Mizzou Women’s Soccer Coach Stefanie Golan knew her Tigers had a tall task ahead of them with the #1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, and they were met with top-ranked intensity in the first half.
The story of the game was the Tar Heels’ ability to distribute the ball cleanly to their wingers in the attacking third section of the field. They were quicker than the Tigers’ defenders, and in turn zipped balls into the box to the attackers.
Just four minutes in, a UNC winger slipped through the Tiger defense and crossed a ball in to a wide open Avery Patterson, who’s initial shot was amazingly saved by Tiger goalkeeper Bella Hollenbach. However, the rebound chance went right back to Patterson, who fired the ball home to give the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, the Tigers saw their first real opportunity to hand the Tar Heels their first goal allowed of the season. Coming into this game, Carolina had outscored their four opponents 13-0. After being awarded a corner kick, the ball was zipped into the box, unclaimed by the UNC goalkeeper, which led to freshman Kylee Simmons getting a clean shot at the net. It was blocked by a Tar Heel defender.
In the 17th minute of the first half, the Heels made their first of eight substitutions, bringing on Tori Dellaperuta onto the pitch, a substitution which immediately paid dividends for UNC. An Emily Colton cross into the box was headed home by Dellaperuta just over two minutes after she was brought into the game, and put UNC up 2-0.
Mizzou had a few good runs behind the UNC defense and saw their wingers and forwards get space, but the Tar Heels’ backline was so quick that every window the Tigers had was immediately closed off by UNC’s fullbacks.
The only chance the Tigers had for the next 20 minutes was a shot towards the top right of the net from freshman Hannah Boughton; it was claimed with relative ease by UNC goalkeeper Emmie Allen.
Just as it looked like the Tigers had calmed down the offensive pressure pouring in from the Tar Heels, UNC midfielder Isabel Cox sashayed past the Mizzou defense and passed a ball into the box to Bella Sember, who cut the ball back beautifully between a Tiger defender’s legs and struck a left-footed shot into the top right corner. This put the Tar Heels up 3-0, and they carried the shutout into halftime.
Once the second half started, the Tigers looked like they had shot out of a cannon, controlling possessions and sending good balls into the final third, and they were rewarded with a corner in the 49th minute. As the corner was curled into the box, there was a lot of commotion, which led to a shot hammered home, seemingly handing the Heels their first goal allowed of the season. Unfortunately, the goal was waived off as it was determined the Mizzou players did not allow for the goalkeeper to adequately claim the ball.
Nonetheless, the Tigers did not roll over one bit and they kept pushing forward, desperately trying to get their first goal of the game. The Tigers’ efforts were finally rewarded in the 60th minute as Kylee Simmons powered through four Tar Heel defenders and smashed home a left-footed volley into the right of the net, sending the Mizzou bench into a frenzy, and bringing them back to a two goal deficit.
Worried about dropping a game to the Tigers, the Tar Heels made six substitutions right after the goal, and were able to hold Mizzou shot-less for the next 30 minutes of the game.
Mizzou greatly improved in the 2nd half, especially on the defensive side of the ball, which led to the Tar Heels being outscored in a half for the first time this season.
UNC seldom allowed the Tigers to get the ball after they cut the lead to two, and they passed it in the backline until the clock hit zero, moving Mizzou to 2-2-1 ahead of their Sept. 4 matchup with arch rivals Kansas at home.
“That was a performance we can be proud of,” Golan said. “Our women battled with courage and belief, we took a step forward.”