May 29, 2024

No. 2 Virginia women’s soccer will look to continue a strong start to the season as they take on No. 8 North Carolina on Sunday. The Cavaliers (10-1-0, 3-0-0 ACC), hoping to establish themselves as the top dog in the ACC, will have to be on their best game to take down the Tar Heels (8-1-1, 1-1-1), who had a stellar start to the season before slowing down in ACC play. 

Despite both teams’ perennial success, North Carolina has had Virginia’s number as of late in this head-to-head matchup. Since 2016, the Tar Heels own an impressive 4-0-1 record against the Cavaliers, who have come close in several instances. 

Virginia, eager to buck the recent trend, has all the pieces in play to halt the winless streak. The Cavaliers, with a lone slip-up against Penn State, have looked flawless on both sides of the ball all season. Additionally, Virginia is still riding the momentum established from a recent win against No. 4 Duke — a team that shut out North Carolina in its most recent matchup. 

Even with the loss of star senior forward Rebecca Jarret, the Cavaliers have not noticed a subsequent drop-off in offensive production. Virginia boasts a loaded lineup, headlined by junior forward Diana Ordoñez, senior forward Alexa Spaanstra and sophomore midfielder Lia Godfrey. This trio has combined for 14 goals and 11 assists in 11 games to catalyze the Virginia offense. 

On the defensive end, Virginia’s stars have been equally impressive. Led by graduate goalkeeper Laurel Ivory who has given up six goals in nine games, the Cavalier defense has suffocated teams all season long. Opposing teams are averaging just about 6.4 shots per game, and on the few opportunities afforded, Ivory has shut them down. 

North Carolina, like Virginia, has a three-headed monster on offense that has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses. However, while Virginia has relied on experience to bolster the offensive attack, the Tar Heels have relied on the rise of two freshmen — forward Emily Murphy and midfielder Emily Colton. Senior forward Rachael Dorwart has been dominant as well to complete an offensive trio that has 13 goals in 10 games.

Although both teams possess potent offenses that can get hot at any moment, do not expect an offensive shootout. Both defenses know what the opposing offenses can do, which will make for a conservative, slowed pace of play. However, if one side somehow falls behind early, these teams certainly have the capability to turn up the tempo and engineer a comeback. With how close these games have been in the past, expect another thriller Sunday afternoon.

The two teams will face off in Chapel Hill at 1 p.m. and the match will be broadcast on ACC Network.