CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Sophomore keeper Kelsey Kearney turned in another fantastic effort in the net, but No. 1 North Carolina scored in the 57th minute and made it stand up as the Tar Heels edged UNC Greensboro 1-0 on Sunday in the final game of the Carolina Nike Classic at Fetzer Field.
After a hard-fought first half that saw the Spartans' defense keep the nation's top-ranked team off the board, North Carolina (3-0) finally broke through when Nikki Washington found the back of the net with 33:30 left in the contest. Meghan Klingenberg got the play started with a cross in from the right wing, and Ali Hawkins tapped the ball to Washington, who pounded home the finish.
That was all Kearney would allow on the day, as the second-year keeper made eight saves – most of them of the outstanding variety – to keep the Tar Heels at bay.
With the teams locked in a scoreless draw and the first half coming to a close, the Spartans (1-2) drew a corner kick with just under a minute to play. Jen Bronson's kick bounced around perilously close to the North Carolina goal, with Lauren Lopez and Jessi Gulledge getting bodies on the ball, before it was cleared by the UNC defense. The clear resulted in another UNCG corner kick with just seconds left in the half, but the Tar Heels were again able to clear a Jenn Partenheimer look to keep the game knotted at 0 at the break.
The Tar Heels threatened early and often in the first half, with All-Americans Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira ripping shots just wide in the opening 15 minutes. UNC had four corner kicks in the early going, with the last two nearly finding the back of the net if not for the efforts of Kearney.
Kearney was up to the challenge both times, making a trio of outstanding saves to keep the game scoreless. On a corner in the 13th minute, Nogueira sent a ball into the box that bounced around a bit before Whitney Engen got off a close-range shot that Kearney was able to boot away amid the scrum.
In the 15th minute, Nogueira played another nice corner into the box, with Engen nodding a shot on frame. Kearney made the save but Hawkins came up with the rebound and lofted a shot that a backpedalling Kearney was able to corral in traffic.
The Spartans' first scoring chance came in the 12th minute, when Kristin Player and a UNC defender headed the ball in the direction of the UNC goal as they jockeyed for position. North Carolina keeper Ashlyn Harris came out and snatched the ball from the air as Player collided with her without getting a shot off.
North Carolina once again nearly got on the board in the 28th minute, when Emmalie Pfankuch got a head on the ball behind the Spartan defense. Her shot found the side netting to keep the game scoreless.
The Tar Heels had several close calls in the second half. Alyssa Rich came within inches of making it a 2-0 affair in the 65th minute, as she got a breakaway chance but sent her shot just wide of the left post.
Pfankuch had another excellent chance in the 68th minute, as Engen played a perfect ball over the top of the Spartan defense to find her in stride. Kearney made yet another stellar save, sliding out of the goal and kicking the ball out of bounds.
Just seconds later off the ensuing corner kick, Rich redirected a UNC shot with a backheel inside the 6-yard box, but Kearney again came up with the huge stop as the score remained 1-0.
Jones seemed to have found the back of the net in the 84th minute, but the Tar Heels were called for an offside violation, negating the goal.
UNCG has surrendered just three goals in its first three games, all of which came against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. The Spartans knocked off No. 11 Duke 1-0 in the opening game of the Carolina Nike Classic on Friday night and fell to Wake Forest 2-1 in the season-opener on Aug. 23.
UNCG returns to action on Friday, Sept. 4, when it hosts Stanford (No. 4 NSCAA, No. 2 Soccer America) in the first round of the UNCG Spartan Classic at 7:30 p.m. Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth open the tournament at 5 p.m. that day.
UNC Greensboro (1-2-0) vs. North Carolina (3-0-0)
Date: Aug 30, 2009 Attendance: 2578
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, 46% humidity
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
UNC Greensboro 0 0 0
North Carolina 0 1 1
1 56:30 NC Nikki Washington (1) (Meghan Klingenberg;Ali Hawkins) - ball played into the box, deflected, tap
Shots: UNC Greensboro 1, North Carolina 22
Saves: UNC Greensboro 8 (Kelsey Kearney 8), North Carolina 0
- UNCG -