And the season is officially underway. Jessie Scarpa's header in the 93rd minute of play gave the Tar Heels their first win of the season, coming at the expense of that team eight miles up the road. Hard to imagine a better way to kick off the 2017 campaign than beating the Dookies in a classic.
The two teams came into the game with high hopes for their seasons, #12 Duke returning a veteran squad looking to build on its recent success against the Tar Heels, and the Heels hoping to take the next step after a run to the Final Four last year. The game lived up to the hype, with both teams having opportunities to win in regulation before eventually being settled three minutes into the 1st overtime.
Duke, which returns nine of its eleven top scorers from last season, started the game strong, putting pressure on Carolina in the opening minutes, forcing Samantha Leshnak to make a pair of saves. Duke found the net in the 25th minute with a goal by forward Taylor Racioppi.
But Carolina struck back six minutes later with a phenomenal free kick from Joanna Boyles. Duke gifted the Tar Heels a shot from just outside the box and the senior midfielder made the most of it, striking the bottom of the crossbar and bouncing it in for the equalizer. Boyle was fantastic on set pieces all game, sending in several good corners that nearly were scored.
The first half ended level and in the 2nd half the Tar Heels took control, taking the lion's share of possession, while Duke mainly sought to counter using long balls over the top. Ru Mucherera and Bridgette Andrzejewski were particularly effective on the wings, with Mucherera repeatedly winning the ball from Duke wingers. The two nearly linked up for the late winner when Andrzejewski broke free of the Duke defense on the endline and sent in a beautiful cross that Mucherera nearly volleyed in but couldn't connect. Megan Buckingham's follow-up went wide.
Just moments later, Duke had the chance to put the game to bed right before the final whistle. The Duke strikers won the ball and were able to attack in numbers, with Taylor Racioppi and Kayla McCoy both having great looks at goal. But Samantha Leshnak made two brilliant saves and the third and final Duke shot, this from Melinda Allen, went wide. Carolina breathed a sigh of relief, avoiding the classic soccer pitfall of winning possession and losing the game.
Overtime was short but sweet. Tar Heel coach Anson Dorrance, clearly displeased with Duke's ability to get in behind the UNC defense in the closing minutes, positioned Jessie Scarpa, who plays forward but had played as a back her freshman year, in a defensive position to try and restore order.
That move was never really put to the test, as UNC won a corner within minutes. Boyle's corner kick was, ironically, too short and was cleared by the Blue Devils, but cleared right back to her. Her next cross found the head of Scarpa and just like that Duke had a soccer ball in their net.
The Tar Heels were the better side and are deserved winners, but they have to feel a bit fortunate to escape with a win, after the late flurry by Duke at the end of regulation almost stole the game from them. But who are we kidding? It's mid-August and Carolina's already beaten Duke in a thriller. The rest is silence.