CHAPEL HILL — If you hit a brick wall enough times, it’s bound to come crumbling down eventually.
After a half of numerous shots on goal from the Tar Heels, Duke’s backline inevitably broke down, allowing North Carolina to break through and score its first goal of the game en route to a Tobacco Road Rivalry win in front of a rowdy Tar Heel Crowd.
No. 2 North Carolina took down the Blue Devils 2-0 Sunday evening to win the 2019 Carolina Nike Tournament at UNC Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium. Eight-ranked Duke redshirt junior goalie Brooke Heinsohn’s four saves were not enough to stop the Tar Heel offense from putting the ball behind the goal posts and sealing the game for North Carolina.
“I was just disappointed,” a dismayed head coach Robbie Church said. “You know, not in our effort. I thought effort was good. But our execution at times, our touches, giving balls away...we gave up too many shots, we didn't get enough shots at our site. So we have to be more aggressive.”
Despite Duke’s staunch efforts to limit opportunities for North Carolina, the Tar Heels (2-0) ended the match with 14 shots—six on goal—and controlled the ball and the tempo for most of the game. Duke’s offense struggled to keep up, unable to keep possession or get good shots off when it got the chance. The Blue Devils (1-1) entered the halftime locker room with a lone shot, none on target. The end of the game was no different, as Duke only got one more shot off, again not even close to being on-goal. This lack of offensive firepower allowed North Carolina to try, try and try again, giving Duke’s backline a good early season test.
About halfway through the first half, a Tar Heel lob from outside the box looked certain to go in, but two quick, phenomenal saves by Heinsohn kept North Carolina at bay. Deja vu occurred when a mental mistake by the Blue Devils in the backfield caused a wide open lane for a Tar Heel forward. Thankfully, Heinsohn made another great save, this time diving to the ground, keeping the score at nil on both sides. Unfortunately for Duke however, the third time was the charm.
When the announcer informed the crowd that there was one minute left in the match, Blue Devil fans began to sigh of relief, as a half in which North Carolina clearly dominated the ball looked as if it would end in a tie. But with 13 seconds left, another lob into the box ended with a Tar Heel header past Heinsohn, giving North Carolina a one-goal lead.
The second half was more of the same for Duke, as it spent most of its time trying its hardest to stop its opponents from scoring, but to no avail. In the 76th minute, a lob from the side of the goal floated over Duke’s defense but tapped a Blue Devil defender’s head for an own goal, all but sealing the game for North Carolina. This allowed the Tar Heels to play much more conservatively and just keep the ball on their side of the field for most of the rest of the match.
Duke’s inexperience at the forward position showed today, as there weren’t many times when it looked like North Carolina’s defense was in trouble. The Blue Devil offense spent more time helping out its defense near its own goal then on the attack. As the second half wore on, fatigue became more and more evident, as the few opportunities Duke did earn on the offensive end, finished with poorly timed passes or simply not getting to the ball as quickly as the well-rested Tar Heel defense. A sold-out, energized and loud North Carolina fanbase didn’t help Duke’s case either.
“We're not running hard enough off the ball...our offensive players are a little indecisive right now,” Church said. “They're not making great decisions with it...it's a lot of freshmen who are now sophomores and their roles have completely changed and they have to be the main players.”
Though it wasn’t the result they wanted, the Blue Devils have a few things to be proud of after a hard fought battle with the second ranked team in the country. Heinsohn stayed focused and concentrated throughout the match despite the lack of execution by her teammates. If it weren’t for her, Duke could have faltered a lot more than it did.
“I thought Brooke [Heinsohn] played very well,” Church said. "I felt that was a big time performance from a big time player and we need that from Brooke [Heinsohn] you know, we're gonna we're gonna need that all year from Brooke [Heinsohn].”
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Duke will try to recuperate before its next game against Georgetown back in Koskinen Stadium this Wednesday at 7 p.m., another match sure to challenge the Blue Devils on both sides of the ball.