The season is off to quite the start for the North Carolina Women's Soccer Team. One week after opening their season with a classic overtime victory over Duke, the Tar Heels played in yet another overtime thriller. This one came against the University of Central Florida, who are coached by Tar Heel alum Tiffany Roberts-Sahaydak. And this time it was Carolina on the wrong end of a golden goal. Two days later, the Heels bagged their second win of the year behind the first hat trick in the last four years of the program. Three dramatic games. And it's not even September yet.
The Heels came into Orlando on Friday newly ranked in the Top 5. Their hosts, the Knights of UCF, were winless against Carolina in their first 21 meetings. That didn't look likely to change, as the Tar Heels found the net in just the 3rd minute. The goal was scored Dorian Bailey and assisted by Joanna Boyles, her second straight game with an assist.
But the Knights struck back in the 13th minute, as Dina Orschmann rebounded in a blocked shot in the box for make it 1-1. The next 90 minutes were largely even, though the Tar Heels had a 15-10 edge in shots. The Tar Heels took control in the first overtime and managed to create several chances, but none of them found the net and the Knights got their first ever program win over Carolina in the 2nd OT on a Christine Creighton shot.
Two days later, the Heels went from Central to South, taking on the University of South Florida in Tampa. The Tar Heels recovered their winning form with a 4-2 victory over the hosts and made a little history in the process. Freshman Taylor Otto put three goals past the USF keeper, two from the penalty spot, to become the first Tar Heel to score a hat trick since superstar Crystal Dunn did it against Miami in 2013. Otto, who redshirted last season in order to play for the US National Team's U-20 squad, comes into Chapel Hill with a lot of hype and lived up to it on Sunday. Anson Dorrance's confidence in her is already on display, as she is his selection to take penalty kicks in only her third game, ahead of more experienced players.
Her first goal came in the 17th minute after Megan Buckingham was brought down in the box. USF equalized four minutes later after Carolina committed a penalty of their own. Otto scored her second, a 12-yard blast, in the 38th minute off an assist from Morgan Goff. But USF came right back and scored within two minutes, as striker Evelyne Viens scored her fourth goal of the season, dribbling in completely untouched and slotting the ball past a charging Samantha Leshnak. The first half ended 2-2.
The Heels must have gotten quite the talk from Dorrance at halftime, particularly after the ease with which USF got their second goal, and it showed. Carolina dominated the 2nd half, outshooting the Bulls 16-2. Two of the 16 shots found their mark. The first came from freshman newcomer Alessia Russo on a long-range strike in the 74th minute. The second came as a staggered USF defense brought down Bridgette Andrzejewski in the box in the 85th minute, allowing Otto to put both the game and her hat trick on ice.
The Tar Heels next face Auburn and UNC-Wilmington at the Duke Nike Classic in Durham next weekend. Lord help us all if it's anything like this last one.