by Mike Potter
But the defending NCAA champion Tar Heels will be exactly that today.
UNC (13-2, 7-2 ACC), currently ranked No. 4 in the country, will take on Virginia (15-0, 9-0), which is ranked No. 1.
Steve Swanson’s Cavaliers have allowed only nine goals all season. They have had four one-goal victories, the last of those a 3-2 overtime win over visiting new ACC member No. 5 Notre Dame on Oct. 10.
UNC has given up only seven, including one apiece in its back-to-back losses to the Irish and Florida State in mid-September.
Each team will be missing its best player, as UNC senior midfielder Crystal Dunn and Virginia junior midfielder Morgan Brian are both with the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team.
Virginia will be seeking its third straight win at Fetzer, which would mark the first time any visiting team has done that. And the Cavaliers will seek to become the first team to beat all four North Carolina ACC members in women’s soccer in the same year. Ever.
The decision marks the first time since the 2-0 1985 NCAA championship loss to George Mason that the Tar Heels had lost by more than one goal in a shutout, and the first time it has ever happened in an NCAA-sanctioned women’s soccer game in Chapel Hill.
The visitors get on the board in the 13th minute, with Brittany Ratcliffe on the five-yard tip-in to the right side for her 11th goal of the season. Assists go to Danielle Colaprico and Molly Menchel.
And they put it away in the 84th minute, as Makenzy Doniak scores on a breakaway to the left side with Emily Sonnett on the assist.
Virginia outshoots the Tar Heels 6-4. Winner Morgan Stearns finishes with two saves, while Bryane Heaberlin and Anna Sieloff each make one save for UNC.
Ratcliffe was making her second start of the season while Alexis Shaffer, the MVP for NCHSAA state 4A champion Green Hope last season whose grandfather Lee was a basketball All-American at UNC, made her first.
They said it …
Swanson: “North Carolina has always been a great team and you know it’s going to be a good game. But in our conference, you can’t look at one game any differently from the others. It was a different kind of game; they do some different things and you have to prepare differently. But I think our players, in as short a time as we have, adjusted pretty well.”
UNC coach Anson Dorrance: “We’re obviously disappointed with the loss. But Virginia is excellent and they demonstrated it. What I liked about the game is that Virginia sat on us in the first half and in the second half our kids played with a lot more composure. The last 10 minutes we tried to figure out a way to steal a goal. A 4-2-3-1 was working, but when we went to a 3-4-3 we were a bit too fatigued to play that system and Virginia stole another one. ”
Shaffer: “My grandfather supports this school a lot and so does most of my family. But for this game he really supports our soccer team and our program. He put on a Virginia shirt for this one. He told our coaches he had to root for his granddaughter.”
Ratcliffe: “It was a great ball from Dani and I just flipped it in. It hit the post and went in and I thought ‘Oh, my gosh!’ As long as we win games, that’s all that matters to me. This is definitely a game we knew we had to win to have a chance to go undefeated.”
What does it all mean?
That the Cavaliers aced their biggest test of the regular season, and that the Tar Heels get a little extra motivation for the final stretch of the season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
UNC: Lost 1.
Virginia: Won 16.
UNC leads 35-3-3.
UNC vs. Clemson, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Virginia vs. Miami, Thursday, 7 p.m.