The Trojans took down No. 8 North Carolina in a dominant 3-0 victory on Sunday, setting an aggressive tone on offense from the first whistle.
The team’s first shot came from redshirt junior Alex Anthony within the first minute of the game, and the pace didn’t slow from there. The team’s first goal came in the fifth minute, with senior Kayla Mills sending in a perfect arc on a corner kick for senior Morgan Andrews to bury in the back of the net.
“We wanted to show them that we can fly on offense,” Anthony said. “Coming in, we wanted to prove that we can compete; we can set the pace of the game and really control it, and that’s what we did from the beginning.”
That pace paid off again in the 29th minute, when junior Katie Johnson took a cross off her chest and smashed a shot into the left side of the netting. The Trojans had been controlling possession for most of the game, but the 2-0 lead made it clear that they were in control.
Opportunities for the Tar Heels to counter only came in spurts in the first half, which was mostly spent in the Trojans’ attacking half of the field. The team kept North Carolina on its heels, flattening and spreading the defense to make any type of counterattack difficult to execute.
“We’re an attacking team, and we wanted to come out here and prove that today,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “No matter what team we’re playing, this is the confidence and the energy we want to bring to the field.”
But despite the success of the first half, the real challenge was maintaining that pressure for a full 90 minutes. The second half was much more balanced for both teams, with the Tar Heels spending more time in the USC goal box, and reshirt senior goalie Sammy Jo Prudhomme wrapping up a few more saves.
But the Trojans didn’t back down throughout the half, continuing to pressure and force opportunities in the box. Anthony punctuated that pace by slamming home a shot from several feet outside the goal box in the 65th minute, marking the first time in five years that North Carolina allowed three goals in a game. The frontline continued to attack until the final whistle blew, giving the team one of their biggest victories of the year.
There are few teams in women’s soccer with as dominant and storied of a history as North Carolina. With 22 national championships since the tournament began in 1982, the Tar Heels have produced dozens of Olympic champions over the last four decades, including Mia Hamm and Heather O’Reilly. Year in and year out, the team is expected to provide some of the heaviest competition in the NCAA.
The enormity of the victory and the dominance with which the team played was not lost on Anthony or her players.
“This is a high-caliber team, and anyone who plays them knows that,” Anthony said. “I think what we did today, not only with getting the win, but in how we played, how we attacked. I think that’s really going to do a lot for our confidence and the way we play together as a team moving forward.”
The victory is also the fifth straight shutout for the backline. The defense only defended 10 shots and three corner kicks throughout the game, with Prudhomme only needing to wrap up four saves.
Though it was a dominant win for the team, the match wasn’t without its frustrations. The Trojans missed two penalty kicks, with one blocked and the other waved off when sophomore Leah Pruitt tried to knock in her own rebounded shot. But McAlpine believed that the cohesive style of play that his team maintained for the full game was one of the best performances he has seen this season.
“Today was fantastic,” McAlpine said. “I think the team decided as a whole they weren’t the biggest fans of losing those first two games. We came out here today and played our game. That’s right where we want to be, for this game and for every game this season.”