Mia Hamm was at Mike A. Meyers stadium Friday night, along with 2,200 other fans. She was there to watch her alma mater play and her former teammate, Texas head coach Angela Kelly.
Kelly attended North Carolina from 1991–1994 and was Hamm’s teammate from 1991–1993.
Both, along with the Texas fans and fewer North Carolina fans in the stands, witnessed a 2-0 domination by the Tar Heels over the Longhorns.
“I thought we were well-organized in the first half,” Kelly said. “We can’t afford to make any mistakes, or they’re going to capitalize.”
Some mistakes were clear; others were minor. But one mistake was particularly costly.
Less than two minutes into the second half, North Carolina forward Alexa Newfield crossed the ball into the box, and, for a second, it seemed that Texas defender Aaron Strawser would corral the ball and clear it out after she bumped it with her chest to control it.
But it was only for a second.
After she checked the ball with her chest, Strawser then tried to kick the ball over her head and out of the box. Unfortunately, the ball went into the chest of Tar Heel midfielder Cameron Castleberry, fell to her left foot and stopped at the back of the net.
Goalkeeper Abby Smith could only look around with her hands up as if to say, “What happened?” Strawser fell to the turf. Texas didn’t recover.
“There was just a little bit of miscommunication at the back post,” Kelly said. “For that one miscommunication there was numerous other times we made the right choices.”
In the first half, the Longhorns (1-1) were able to hold their ground against North Carolina (3-0). The Tar Heels managed nine shots on goal in the first half, but none were a real threat. Some were too wide, others too high and the rest were corralled by the hands of Smith.
Offensively, the Longhorns managed three shots on goal, but the Tar Heels constantly tried to push the ball up field. Most of the time, a Longhorn midfielder or defender would pass the ball up ahead and hope that Texas’ dynamo freshman forward, 5-foot-3-inch Mikayla Flores, could catch up to the ball and make an opportunity.
It worked at times, but often the ball would roll too far ahead Flores and would either go out of bounds or be fielded by a Carolina defender.
“I thought we could have possessed the ball a little bit more,” Kelly said. “We gave away the ball too much.”
Then North Carolina turned it up a notch and played like the No. 5-ranked team that it is — the team with the suffocating defense and potent offense.
Two minutes after Castleberry’s goal, midfielder Joanna Boyles got the rebound off UNC forward Summer Green’s shot and sent a screaming shot from 18 yards away into the right side of the net.
North Carolina managed 18 shots on goal in the second half to Texas’ four. Smith was all over the field and had five saves in the second half. Even though Smith needed to stop shots and punt balls often, she thought the defense played well.
“We’re still a new defense, so we’re still learning a lot of new things,” Smith said. “I think we did a lot of new good things.”
They may have done some new things well, but they will have to get better for Sunday’s game against Ohio State.
“We’re going to reorganize and get ready for Sunday,” Kelly said.