So, UNC game in having tied Cornell 0-0. We had pretty much controlled the game against Cornell and I don't think the 1-0 result really showed the disparity in the two teams. Don't get me wrong, Cornell was a good team but for the amount of time we had the ball in the final third of the field, we should have scored more goals. A two or three to nothing win would have been more representative of the game. BUT...UNC game out on fire! They were all over us and kicked our tails for the first 10 minutes. We couldn't get out of the back for more than one clearance which was shoved right back down our throats. We were flat and really struggling to connect passes and maintain any possession. Full credit to our back line of Meg Galea and Knar Topouzian at centerback and Blair Wolski (Sr. from Vestavia Hills, AL.) and Nancy Krutty (So. from Plymouth, MI.) for not allowing the sustained possession to create any dangerous attacks as we struggled to find our legs and our way.
Right about the ten minute mark we were able to put together a few passes and create an attack down the right side. We talked before the first game about how the wide spaces would be valuable during this tournament...Forward Michelle Mirasol (Sr. captain from Rochester HIlls, MI.) crossed a ball that found Center Mid) Makenzie Williams (Jr. from Plymouth, MI.) at the top of the box. Mack took a touch and then drove a ball to the far post. The UNC keeper dove to her right at a full stretch and just missed pushing it wide...but the ball hit the post and bounced across the goal mouth where it snuggled nicely into the side netting for a 1-0 MSU lead! Against the run of play we had taken the lead!
The goal got us settled down and the remainder of the half was played out mainly in the middle of the field with both teams defending very well and not allowing the other to spend much time in their final third. We took a 1-0 lead into the half even though we were not playing our best soccer. the start of the second half saw a rejuvenated UNC start just like the began the first half and about three minutes in one of UNC's better attackers took a ball down the right side, cut it back and curled a ball in towards the far post that beat our keeper, Katie Foss (So. from Farmington, MI.) and then made a beautiful sound, the sound of a ball hitting a post! We stay ahead 1-0! The ensuing scramble for the ball off the post was finally cleared by us and found forward Grace Noyola (So. from DeWitt, MI.) who was able to get past the UNC center back and in behind for a breakaway! She carried the ball into the box and slipped the ball past a sliding UNC keeper...only to hear the worst sound in the world, the ball hitting the post! UNC was able to clear the ball and thwart the threat.
The game settled back in to the midfield and each team was able to create a few half chances but no goals came from any of them. With about 8 minutes remaining we dropped into a 4-42 instead of our typical 4-3-3 formation to play a little more defensively. We were able to maintain our 1-0 advantage and win the group with a 1-0 win over UNC!
Tonight we got a great performance from our midfield group and the depth that we have there. Makenzie Williams, Sam Chouinard (Fr. from Metamora, MI.), Morgan Schalm (So. from Flat Rock, MI.), Steph March, Erika Tvedten (Fr. from Redington Beach, FL.) and Emmalee Skorich (Jr. from DeWitt, MI) are asked to do a lot of work as a group of three in the midfield. Being able to rotate six players through those three positions was a huge factor in our win tonight. UNC had a very strong midfield and we were able to gain an advantage there due to our depth. Their work ethic, heart, passion and desire were absolutely outstanding tonight and a huge reason for our win.
We will take on Texas tomorrow at high noon in the Sweet 16. Texas beat us two years ago here in Memphis in group play before we made our run to the National Championship.