Ohio State women’s soccer coach Lori Walker said her team battled and played well against No. 1-ranked University of North Carolina on Sunday, but not well enough as the No. 18-ranked Buckeyes lost, 3-0.
UNC (4-0-0) used a first-half goal from junior midfielder Amber Brooks to open the scoring and silence a Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium crowd of 2,892. A second-half goal from sophomore forward Khelia Ohai doubled the Tar Heels’ lead and a late tap-in by senior forward Emmalie Pfankuch provided all the offense needed to upend the Buckeyes (3-2-0).
“Any time the No. 1 team comes in your house and battles and your squad makes a game of it, there’s something to be proud of,” Walker said after the game. “There’s a lot we’re going to learn from this match.”
The opening half-hour of play saw the Buckeyes and Tar Heels split possession, but OSU was the first to threaten to score.
A Tar Heels turnover in the 11th minute sent play in the opposite direction and after collecting the ball, OSU junior forward Tiffany Cameron attempted to play freshman forward Ellyn Gruber toward UNC’s goal. Senior keeper Gay Adelaide scurried forward and kicked the ball out of play before Gruber could reach through-ball.
OSU threatened again in the 31st minute when junior midfielder Aly Walker slipped behind UNC’s back line. Walker took a lofted pass and nodded a shot on goal, but Adelaide again came forward and was able to knock the headed shot aside.
Adelaide would finish the match with three saves.
The Tar Heels opened the scoring in the 35th minute after referee Michael Allie awarded UNC a free kick just outside the Buckeyes’ penalty area.
The ensuing strike from Brooks — a low, driven shot on goal — took a deflection before glancing off the hand of Buckeyes’ senior keeper Katie Baumgardner.
“I got a hand on (the shot),” Baumgardner said. “If I could take it back, I would. It was a little out of my control.”
Baumgardner would go on to save two of UNC’s five on-target shots in the match.
The Tar Heels took a 1-0 into halftime, but OSU took the game to UNC shortly after play resumed.
In the 55th minute, Buckeyes senior forward Paige Maxwell dribbled up field, shook her defender and fired a shot from about 20 yards out that beat Adelaide, but caromed off the crossbar and out of play.
“I was probably leaning back too much because I thought it was a closer shot,” Maxwell said. “I guess I leaned a little high. I should have tried to place it.”
Four minutes later, UNC made the Buckeyes pay for Maxwell’s missed opportunity.
Ohai collected the ball inside OSU’s penalty area, cut the ball back to create space and then calmly deposited a shot into the back of Baumgardner’s net to put the Tar Heels up 2-0.
“The goal that Ohai created — if the kid can stop on a dime and keep her feet to shoot, the kid deserves a goal,” Lori Walker said of UNC’s second goal.
Brooks then assisted on another UNC goal 18 minutes later.
Brooks floated a cross off a set piece into the Buckeyes’ penalty area in the 77th minute. Sophomore forward Elizabeth Burchenal corralled the ball inside the six-yard box and rolled it across the face of Baumgardner’s goal to Pfankuch.
Pfankuch then scored a tap-in goal to round out UNC’s offensive production in the match.
“We gave up two goals on set pieces — that’s a mental thing,” Lori Walker said. “We’ve got to do better than that.”
UNC denied the Buckeyes’ forwards at nearly every turn over the final 13 minutes and went on collect its first shutout of the season.
After the game, Baumgardner said there were many positives to glean from the night’s result.
“The kind of pressure that we played under, with (UNC) being so good and so technical, is really going to help us in the future,” Baumgardner said.
Lori Walker agreed, saying she hoped for a future encounter with a No. 1-ranked team.
“For us, the preparation that we get from this match will help us in the Big Ten conference,” she said. “Ultimately, you want to meet the No.1 team later on in the year.”
OSU continues its regular season next Sunday at home with a 6 p.m. game against Ohio University.