PORTLAND, ORE. – Ellen Parker of Portland scored off a set piece just over four minutes into the match and the goal held up for a 1-0 victory for the Pilots over fourth-ranked North Carolina Friday night in the opening game of the 2012 women’s soccer season. A crowd of 4,014 fans was on hand at Merlo Field as the Pilots beat the Tar Heels for the first time in 10 tries, improving to 1-8-1 all-time against the Tar Heels.
It was a tough night shooting wise for the Tar Heels, who lost a season opener for only the fourth time in school history. UNC outshot the Pilots 20-7 on the night but only five of Carolina’s 20 shots were on goal and the lack of shooting accuracy doomed the Tar Heels’ chance at a comeback win.
UNC’s only other losses in season openers came at Connecticut in 1983, at Texas A&M in 2006 and at home against South Carolina in 2007.
Portland was very efficient on its seven shots. The Pilots placed four of their seven shots on goal, scoring the goal by Parker at 4:02 and then forcing Adelaide Gay into three saves. Erin Dees made four saves in goals for the Pilots (1-0). Portland defender Ellen Parker also had a crucial save on a shot by Satara Murray at 9:51 that would have tied the match.
The Tar Heels also led in corner kicks 7-2 but were unable to get a goal off their set pieces. Portland was whistled for 15 fouls while Carolina committed five. UNC’s five fouls, however, came in dangerous ground and set up some challenging set pieces that the Tar Heels had to defend.
UNC also fell victim to injury woes as senior defender Megan Brigman left the game less than four minutes in and did not return. She was in crutches on the bench in the second half. Sophomore Brooke Elby came on in defense for Brigman but she herself left the game on a cart with her right leg in an air cast with seven minutes to play in regulation. Both will undergo further medical examination when the team returns to Chapel Hill on Sunday.
The only goal of the game came a little over four minutes into play after UNC committed a foul just outside the right side of the penalty box. On the restart, Amanda Frisbie sent her free kick into a dangerous spot at the four-yard line and Ellen Parker redirected it into the lower right corner of the goal for the only tally Portland would need. UNC goalkeeper Adelaide Gay got her hands on the shot but was unable to keep it out of the net.
UNC forced the Pilots into three first half saves. In the 10th minute, Ranee Premji’s corner kick was placed perfectly to Satara Murray who one-timed a shot that was heading over the goal line before Parker redirected it out of danger. Ranee Premji and Maria Lubrano had long distance shots turned away by Erin Dees at 29:52 and 34:51 of the first half. Freshman Summer Green was active all night and she had a spectacular shot from the top of the box at 32:33 that whistled just high of the cross bar.
The Tar Heels came close to getting an equalizer in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with Dees stopping shots by Amber Brooks at 49:27 and by Summer Green at 54:36.
In an effort to get the tying tally UNC pushed forward and that allowed the Pilots to get some scoring chances on counter attacks. Adelaide Gay made three crucial second half saves to keep the Tar Heel deficit at one goal as she parried a point blank shot by Parker off the cross bar at 71:07, saved Lorielle McCluskie header off a corner kick at 80:22 and then stopped a free kick by Amanda Frisbie at 82:18.
Carolina will have a week off to prepare for ninth-ranked Florida. The Gators visit Fetzer Field next Friday at 7 p.m. for a game in the Carolina Nike Classic. The ninth-ranked Gators were upset by the Miami Hurricanes Friday night in their season opener by a 4-1 score in a match played in Gainesville, Fla. Duke will play the University of Montreal in Friday night’s first game at 5 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to buy their tickets for the UNC-Florida game online in advance as the Tar Heels look to pack Fetzer Field to its capacity for the home season opener.