UNC Sports Weekend Offered Up Plenty

With fall sports conducting NCAA playoffs and basketball season now in full swing, it was an eventful weekend for Tar Heel athletics. UNC athletes experienced both the thrill of victory and the bitter taste of defeat.

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The UNC men’s and women’s basketball teams have hit the road with desirable final destinations. The men are Bahamas bound, while the women are headed to Hawaii.

But the two squads made quick pit stops over the weekend. The men stopped in Charlotte to take on the sharp-shooting Davidson Wildcats Saturday inside Time Warner Cable Arena.

Meeks slamming it down (Todd Melet)

Meeks slamming it down (Todd Melet)

The sixth-ranked Tar Heels used an in-form defense to cool the Wildcats off and emerge with a comfortable 90-72 win to improve to 3-0 on the young season.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says he was pleased with his team’s play, especially on the defensive side of the floor.

“I think we beat a very good basketball team that is a difficult matchup for us. I thought defensively, it was by far our best game of the year,” Coach Williams says.

Sophomore Kennedy Meeks was impressive, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. But Coach Williams says Meeks is still figuring out how to play in his new slimmed-down frame.

“I think it’s a day-to-day thing. We’ve got to get his mind correct – that he does have a different body and can do certain things. He’s giving me the tired signal, then goes out there, denies the pass 45-feet from the basket and goes down and dunks,” Coach Williams says. “I’ve told him all the time to give me the tired signal when he goes back on offense, not defense. He just doesn’t realize what his body can do right now.”

As for the women, they met up with the Oregon Ducks in Eugene Sunday and after a sluggish start that may have been credited to jetlag; the Tar Heels poured it on in the second half to run away with an emphatic 76-59 triumph and up their record to 4-0.

UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s halftime adjustments paid off. With the three-point shots misfiring, the Hall of Fame coach made it simple for her players – just dominate inside. The Tar Heels did just that.

“Offensively, we got the ball inside. I told them at halftime that our advantage is to get the ball inside. They can’t stop us. We’re out there jacking up all these threes. They weren’t going in. Everything we did [in second half] was to get the ball inside,” Coach Hatchell says.

After the game, Coach Hatchell says she received a special compliment from one of the officials.

“We want to just keep getting and better as a team. I really love this team. They’re great kids. In fact, right at the end of the game, one of the referees said to me, ‘It’s such a privilege and honor to call for your team because not only are you skilled, but your ladies are so classy.’ That’s pretty special. The image of how they represent themselves and especially the University of North Carolina, is tremendous,” Coach Hatchell says.

Danielle Butts dives to save the ball (UNC Athletics)

Danielle Butts dives to save the ball (UNC Athletics)

But not all UNC’s teams came out on the right end of the scoreboard over the weekend. There will be no 22nd national championship this year for the Carolina women’s soccer team.

The Tar Heel women were upset 1-0 by South Carolina in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Fetzer Field.

UNC head coach Anson Dorrance says despite the setback, he was proud of his team’s accomplishments this season that included a share of the ACC regular season title.

“I’m proud of my senior class. We had really good leadership. If you look at our season overall, we certainly overachieved. We were conference co-champs with Florida State and a No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s pretty good for a team that was without ten starters from the previous year. But the day obviously goes to South Carolina,” Coach Dorrance says.

For the seniors, the loss was especially tough to take. Senior Satara Murray, though, says she couldn’t have asked for a better four years as a Tar Heel.

It was a disappointing day for the UNC women's soccer team (UNC Athletics)

It was a disappointing day for the UNC women’s soccer team (UNC Athletics)

“All in all, I had a fantastic year. I had fun. It was an amazing four years. I’m excited to see what the future has in store, but I love playing with this team every minute, every game. These girls fought for one another, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Credit goes to my team for making this an unforgettable and memorable four years,” Murray says.

In other action, the UNC men had better luck on the soccer pitch, defeating tenth-seeded Charlotte 2-1 in rainy conditions Sunday to survive and advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels will face the winner of the Clemson-Coastal Carolina match to be played Monday.

And last but certainly not least, the Carolina volleyball team continues to serve up a storm. This time, the No. 7 Tar Heels bagged a 3-1 win over the Louisville Cardinals Sunday afternoon in Cardinal Arena.

UNC head coach Joe Sagula’s 24-2 team will wrap up the regular season this week with a pair of home matches – a rivalry encounter against No. 21 Duke and an ACC matchup with Wake Forest.


Meeks, Defense Dominate As Tar Heels Handle Davidson

It may be early in the season, but the North Carolina men’s basketball team’s defense already has the makings of being something quite special.

It sure looked that way on Saturday afternoon as the No. 6 ranked Tar Heels handled Davidson 90-72. at Time Warner Cable Arena.

UNC improved to 3-0 by holding the Wildcats to a shade below 34 percent shooting overall and taking a double-digit lead in the first half that was never really threatened by Bob McKillop’s team, which fell to 2-1.

“I thought it was our best defensive game of the season,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams says. “I was very pleased with their effort.”

Coach Williams reacts (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams reacts (Todd Melet)

Peyton Aldridge sizzled in the early going, however, netting eight of his game-high 25 points in the first 4:15 of the contest as the ‘Cats took a 12-7 lead.

The Tar Heels then started to exert command, going on an 8-0 run punctuated by a Marcus Paige layup and Theo Hinson dunk for a 15-12 advantage.

Jordan Barham’s layup brought the Wildcats within 18-16 near the midway point of the opening half, but the Tar Heels went on a 28-16 run to take a 46-34 lead into the break.

Kennedy Meeks was the key component to the Tar Heels success, dominating down low with three layups in the stretch while the Wildcats settled for mostly outside jumpers.

Meeks had a monster game in finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals and two blocks. He was joined in double-figure scoring by Justin Jackson (18), Marcus Paige (13) and J.P. Tokoto (10).

Jackson says defense came first, despite his individual scoring outburst.

“Our biggest thing was to cover the three-point line since that was their game plan,” Jackson says. “We kept after it and didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard either.”

Aldridge had little help from his Wildcats teammates as Tyler Kalinoski dropped in 12 points but shot just 4 of 18 from the field. Fellow guard Brian Sullivan really struggled, missing all eight of his three-point attempts.

The Tar Heels maintained a double-digit lead throughout much of the second half, despite Aldridge’s terrific shooting. He drilled  a pair of consecutive treys to bring Davidson within 52-44 about five minutes into the second half.

It was all UNC from there, with a Paige three-pointer and Jackson jumper making it 61-46 with 12:16 remaining. Williams was able to draw from his reserves in the closing minutes, as 12 Tar Heels saw action.

Nate Britt, who scored five points in 14 minutes said it’s important everyone contribute for the Tar Heels to continue being successful.

“I think the most impressive thing about our team so far is how much depth we have,” Britt says. “We have a lot of people who can play a lot of different positions.”

And play those positions well too, judging by the early results. Next up for the Tar Heels comes a game against Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas starting Wednesday.



Worth Brings the Tar Heels to Victory over Buffs in Overtime

unc women's soccer

The North Carolina women’s soccer team took down Colorado 1-0 in overtime Friday night in front of a sold out stadium at Fetzer Field.

Colorado ends the season with a 14-7-1 record and UNC earns a spot in the Final 16 while improving to 14-3-2.

“Obviously we’re very excited to be advancing in the NCAA tournament,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance says. “Although the score doesn’t indicate it, I’m very proud of the way our kids played. We’re starting to move the ball quickly, we’re keeping the ball very well, we’re playing a great possession game and we’re changing the point effectively.”

Dorrance started the first 10-minute session of overtime with six reserves on the field. Carolina employed much of this strategy throughout the game with 21 Tar Heels seeing the field and all of them playing double-digit minutes.

“We have a deep roster and we have no issue playing our bench and of course they rewarded us. I think almost half the goals have been scored by reserves,” Dorrance says.

Sophomore Maya Worth scored her first career goal in the 94th minute to bring the Tar Heels to victory.

The goal transpired after Katie Bowen served the ball into the box on a corner kick. Sophomore Danae O’Halloran sent a cross into the middle of the penalty area and Worth was there to head the ball, which was deflected by a Colorado player. Worth rebounded and powered the shot with her right foot into the back of the goal.

Courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati

Courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati

“I was borderline in tears,” Worth says. “I don’t normally get nervous but I was really nervous before going into the overtime. And then after I scored I was trying to keep it together. I was trying to run to our bench to meet the rest of the team but as soon as I hit Bruder we just collapsed and everyone met us there and it was great. Wonderful feeling.”

Worth’s goal guaranteed the Tar Heels a spot in the Final 16 and marked the 120th overall NCAA Tournament victory in Carolina history.

“We weren’t really expecting much this season we were kind of looking at ourselves as underdogs but week by week we’ve improved. This past week we’ve had a fantastic week of training and it just showed tonight,” Bowen says.

UNC will play South Carolina Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fezter Field for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals next weekend.



Men’s Soccer Moves on to NCAAT Second Round

The North Carolina men’s soccer team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championships with a 6-0 win over James Madison on Thursday night at Fetzer Field.

The Tar Heels, who move to 13-5-1 on the season, were led by Senior forward Andy Craven who had three goals and an assist in the win.  The Hat Trick, Craven’s second of the season, gives the 1st Team All-ACC selection 14 goals on the season, just one behind the national lead.

With the loss James Madison sees their season end with a record of 10-8-4.

It took nearly the entire first half for the Tar Heels to break through but when Craven did so in the 42nd minute the goals began to flow.

After taking a 1-0 lead into intermission the Tar Heels needed only 89 seconds to double their lead in the second half as Senior forward Rob Lovejoy was able to bang in a rebound from a Craven shot.

From there the Tar Heels poured it on as they outshot James Madison 24-2 for the game.

Carolina next plays in the second round against 10th seeded Charlotte on Sunday at 2p.m.


UNC Preps For Five-Game Road Stretch

The North Carolina men’s basketball team will continue rolling with its light schedule when it faces Davidson Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.

The Tar Heels remain ranked at No. 6. According to Head Coach Roy Williams, Carolina is using this game as preparation for younger players before meeting tougher competition in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas next week.

“I’ve always said pre-conference games are supposed to get you ready for conference play,” Coach Williams says. “The quality of the opponents we have in pre-conference play this year are some of the best teams in the country.”

UNC forward Brice Johnson says this young team is still looking for their identity as the season progresses. Johnson led scorers with 23 points in Sunday’s victory over Robert Morris.

“I mean, everybody’s been playing zone lately so I can’t post up the way I really want to,” Johnson said. “Hopefully this week, (Davidson) won’t play as much zone and we’ll be able to post up and run our plays the way we want to. We’ll just be able to do the things we need to do on the offensive end instead of trying to adjust to what their defensive scheme is.”

In Carolina’s last meeting with the Wildcats in 2013, Davidson forced the Heels into overtime before UNC overcame with a 97-85 victory in Chapel Hill. Coach Williams says he does not want another close call.

“We needed to let them rest because we played Friday, practiced Saturday, played Sunday so we gave them Monday off; but Tuesday and Thursday we went pretty doggone hard. And I think we need the practice time,” Coach Williams says. “We’ve got to continue working to build a strong foundation but this week of practice was good for us.”


Tar Heels Reclaim Victory Bell, Down Duke

The North Carolina football team dashed out to a commanding 28-7 halftime lead and went on to beat rival Duke 45-20 Thursday night at Wallace Wade Stadium to improve to 6-5 on the season and in the process, gain bowl eligibility.

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With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 8-3 on the season and handed the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets the ACC Coastal division crown and a spot in the ACC Championship game opposite Florida State.

Marquise Williams threw for 374 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Tar Heel offense to a torrid start, and despite a few hiccups in the second quarter that could have broken the game open further, turned in an impressive performance that the careless Blue Devils were unable to match.

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

In an encouraging sign, for the first time this season, the Tar Heels had a running back eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game. It was T.J. Logan who earned the distinction with 117 yards and a touchdown.

“I think we finally put together a complete game in all three phases – offensively, defensively and special teams. Other than the three turnovers we had offensively, it couldn’t have been a more solid game for us,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.

In a surprising twist, the much-maligned Tar Heel defense rose to the occasion, coming up with big stops after the offensive miscues in the second quarter that gave Duke a chance to hang around in the game.

“It was huge. For the defense to go out there in those situations and hold them to no points after those three fumbles, that was big. And that gave a shot of adrenaline to the entire team,” Coach Fedora says.

Duke’s signal caller Anthony Boone tossed two touchdowns and threw for 262 yards, but he was sacked three times and gave away an interception.

“I don’t know if there are words that fit how you feel. I told the team after the game, I said ‘First thing I don’t want you to forget is all this winning that has led us to a Thursday night opportunity on national television playing your arch rival. Obviously it was a disaster from our standpoint,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe says.

***Listen to Larry Fedora’s postgame remarks***

On Duke’s first drive, UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer recovered a fumble. It got the Tar Heels rolling.

From there, the offense raced ahead. A 3-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Switzer got UNC on the scoreboard first, and then the defense pitched in again with a 10-yard fumble return for a touchdown by senior safety Tim Scott.

At the end of the first quarter, the Tar Heels had claimed a 21-7 lead over the Blue Devils. Duke got on the board with a 10-yard touchdown heave by Boone into the arms of Isaac Blakeney.

The Victory Bell (UNC Athletics)

The Victory Bell (UNC Athletics)

But that was the home team’s only score of the half to the dismay of the crowd. As for UNC, it added seven more points to its ledger thanks to a 1-yard Williams keeper into the end zone with 13:02 on the second quarter clock.

On the critical second half opening drive, the Blue Devils turned the ball over when Boone tossed an interception to MJ Stewart.

The Tar Heels took advantage immediately with an impressive offensive possession that ended with a one-yard touchdown by TJ Logan with 9:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Everything was going right for the Tar Heels. A season-long 30-yard field goal make by Thomas Moore to push the lead up to 38-7 with 6:23 in the third quarter, confirmed that. It was that kind of night.

UNC coasted from there, gliding to the rivalry win that earned  them back the coveted Victory Bell after a two-year hiatus.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes a season-ending in-state matchup with the N.C. State Wolfpack next Saturday in Chapel Hill.



No.1 UNC Takes On No. 4 Syracuse In Final Four

The top-ranked North Carolina field hockey team will make its 19th final four appearance Friday after beating No. 9 Duke Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The game winner came from senior forward Loren Shealy on a penalty corner.

Shealy says beating Duke on her home field, Francis E. Henry Stadium, was a great way to end her college career.

“I mean it’s just an amazing feeling, I really can’t describe it,” Shealy says. “It’s something you kind of dream about, like one of these games putting you into the final four. Team was awesome today and brought so much intensity, for themselves and for us, and especially for us seniors and it means the world.”


Loren Shealy UNC Athletics

But the Tar Heels won’t be playing on their home turf for their NCAA tournament semifinal game. They will face a familiar ACC foe – No. 4 Syracuse in College Park, Md.

UNC Coach Karen Shelton says the game will be evenly matched.

“We have some motivation, but they’ll have some motivation as well,” Shelton says. “I would expect an even match. They’ve got strengths and so do we.”

Coach Shelton (UNC Athletics)

Coach Shelton (UNC Athletics)

The two teams have played against each other twice this year. The Orange beat the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament, winning 3-2 in overtime, but UNC won the regular season game 3-0.

“I think that it will be the rubber match, so we beat them in the regular season and they beat us in the ACC Tournament,” Shelton says. “I think we’ll prepare a little bit better and I think that we’ll play better.”

This will be UNC’s sixth consecutive final four appearance. The six-time NCAA champions lost to Connecticut in the NCAA semifinals last year.


UNC Women’s Soccer to Host Colorado Friday in NCAAT

Megan Buckingham (Courtesy of GoHeels.com)

Megan Buckingham (Courtesy of GoHeels.com)

The sixth-ranked UNC women’s soccer team will compete in Chapel Hill Friday at 7 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels will take on the 36th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes. UNC’s record stands at 13-3-2 after a 2-0-victory over South Dakota in a first round game.

UNC head coach Anson Dorrance says the team can be better and is going to have to be better to continue advancing.

“I think what I have to do a better job of going into next weekend’s games—I don’t think I tapered my team very well into this game,” Coach Dorrance says. “I think we were a little leg weary and maybe that was a part of the problem. I have to do a better job this week tapering them into a two-game weekend against two teams that could beat us. I think I have to do a better job of that come this training week.”

Coach Dorrance says due to sickness on the roster last week, three starters will be back on the field this weekend.

Carolina has qualified for each of the 33 NCAA Tournaments ever held, the only school in the nation to do so.

“I’m very proud of what our kids have done this year,” Coach Dorrance says. “Our ambition going into the NCAA tournament is we have a good season going, and now based on how far we go we can turn this season into a great one. So that’s our goal now.”

UNC will host a pair of second round games Friday night in Chapel Hill. Seattle will meet South Carolina and the winner of the two games will face off in an NCAA third round game on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field.


UNC Toughs Out Top-25 Win Over OK State

The eleventh-ranked North Carolina women’s basketball team remains undefeated thanks to a 79-77 nail-biter victory against No. 21 Oklahoma State Wednesday evening in Carmichael Arena.

The Cowgirls have now fallen to 2-1, while North Carolina remains unscathed at 3-0.

This was Carolina’s first tough game of the season, one that Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell says the ladies will benefit from before their road game stretch against even higher-ranked opponents.

“Well I think we’re very balanced, we’ve got good leadership with the seniors, we’ve got depth,” Coach Hatchell says. “And I’m very confident so it’s good to be able to put the different (players) in there, and we’re going to get better and better with our outside shooting and learning a little bit more of when to take those shots. So we’ll get smarter as we go along.”

OSU’s highest scorer, Brittany Martin, who averaged 24.5 points per contest before the night’s game, was out early in both halves due to foul trouble. OSU Head Coach Jim Littell, who coached his squad to a 25-9 record last season, says Martin’s low minutes made a significant difference in the development of his team’s offense.

Brittany Rountree (left), Xylina McDaniel and Stephanie Mavunga (UNC Athletics)

Brittany Rountree (left), Xylina McDaniel and Stephanie Mavunga (UNC Athletics)

“She got two fouls guarding the ball at the wrong end of the court, and that was a factor in the game for us,” Coach Littell says. “She’d scored 24 in game one, 27 in game two; but she played 16 minutes tonight and it was basically because of silly fouls. We got what we deserved on that. But we’ve got a long way to go, we lost a couple really good players last year and we’re trying to find our way right now of how we need to play. It was better tonight but we’re disappointed because we felt like we had a chance to win the game.”

The night started out a lot like any other UNC game this season, as reigning leading scorer Allisha Gray came out with a hot hand, and scored the first 8 points of the match. A bucket by sophomore Stephanie Mavunga started off Carolina’s early 10-0 run.

Minutes later, that lead was cut, and OSU’s Brittany Atkins came back with a big three-point shot to tie the game back up at 15 with just under 13 minutes left in the half. The Cowgirls took their first lead of the game that next possession with a strong drive to the basket by senior Lashawn Jones, who finished the night with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

UNC battled back to give themselves more breathing room with 3 minutes to play, creating a nine-point lead off of a beautiful in-bounds play from Gray to senior Danielle Butts, with an assist back down to Gray who finished with a lay-up on the baseline. Consecutive three’s by Oklahoma native Jessica Washington and an and-1 score by Butts closed the half with the Tar Heels on top at 40-29. OSU guard Roshunda Johnson dominated the second half and kept the Tar Heels from running away with the lead, shooting 3 for 4 from behind the arc and 6-10 from the field to finish with 21 points.

Johnson’s strong drive to the basket and a full court pass to Jones in the post brought OSU within 6 points of Carolina at 50-44 and caused UNC’s Hall of Fame coach to call a timeout. UNC senior Brittany Rountree emerged from that break with her first and only made three-pointer of the game, a depressing statistic after her 17-point performance scoring four three-pointers against UCLA Sunday.

Three consecutive baskets by the Cowgirls gave them their first lead since 12:47 of the first half at 65-63, with 5:40 left to play. Junior Xylina McDaniel stole the ball and traveled coast to coast to score. Mavunga then put the Heels back on top with an and-1 lay-up. She missed the extra point, which was rebounded by Allisha Gray and sent cross-court to Rountree for a field goal.

With 1:14 left to play, Gray fouled OSU’s Martin who was sent to the free throw line and made both of her shots to cut the Heels’ lead to 77-74. After breaking OSU’s press, Mavunga went up for lay-up and was called for an offensive foul with one minute left to play, much to the joy of Oklahoma State’s bench. Another big 3 by Johnson tied the game at 77 points.

Senior Latifah Coleman dished a pass to Stephanie Mavunga for the last basket of the game with 30 seconds left. Oklahoma State made one last attempt to extend the game with a “Hail Mary” pass inbounds, but it was stolen out of the air by Gray to seal the Tar Heels’ victory.

Five Tar Heels scored in double figures, as Stephanie Mavunga and Xylina McDaniel collected double-doubles and Allisha Gray led all scorers with 22 points.

Carolina heads west to begin a string of road games for the next month, beginning with Oregon Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Network.



Nike Cup Swimming Invitational Comes to Chapel Hill

The UNC men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are all set to host the annual Janis Hape Dowd Nike Cup Invitational this Thursday through Saturday at the Maurice J. Koury Natatorium.

A three-day, championship format competition, the Cup will feature seven other schools in both the swimming and diving part of the contest along with the Tar Heels.  Tennessee, Air Force, Duke, NC State, East Carolina, Old Dominion and the Navy men’s team.  The University of Michigan will have their men and women compete in just the diving events, while the James Madison and Georgia Southern women will follow suit.


The Tar Heel women react to a recent victory

The Tar Heel women react to a recent victory

Local triangle rivals, UNC and N.C. State, could end up making the biggest waves in the pool this weekend.  The most recent College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) rankings have the Wolfpack men ranked sixth with the Tar Heels coming in close behind at ninth. On the women’s side, UNC sits at fourteenth while the State girls swam to the twentieth spot this week.

However, neither of the triangle schools may come out on top if the University of Tennessee has anything to say about it. The Volunteer men come to Chapel Hill with the fourteenth rank, while their female counterparts enter the water ranked eighth.

Swimmers will dive in each day at 9:30 a.m., with finals being held nightly at 5:30 p.m.  In addition, four finals will be held per night.