BLACKSBURG, VA.  –   Top-ranked North Carolina got goals from Paige Nielsen and Kealia Ohai to ease past 22nd-ranked Virginia Tech 2-1 Thursday night before 1,406 fans at Thompson Field.  It was the ACC women’s soccer season opener for both teams.

Carolina opened its ACC season with the victory and improves to 7-0 overall heading into a 1 p.m. matchup Sunday against #8 Notre Dame at Fetzer Field.  Virginia Tech fell to 5-1-1 on the season and 0-1 in the ACC.  Notre Dame defeated NC State 3-1 Thursday night in Raleigh to improve to 5-1 on the season and 1-0 in the ACC.

The victory was the 750th of UNC head coach Anson Dorrance‘s coaching career as he improved to 750-49-29 in 35 seasons at the helm.  He also coached the Tar Heel men’s team to 172 wins from 1977-88 so his combined win total now stands at 922 career wins.

Carolina garnered a first-half goal by Paige Nielsen and a second-half goal by Kealia Ohai and held off a late Virginia Tech rally to preserve the win.  Jazmine Reeves scored off a corner kick for the Hokies in the 87th minute and then UNC goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin made a save on a header in the box by Murielle Tiernan with just 18 seconds left in the game as the Hokies continued to press the issue.

The Tar Heels outshot the Hokies 8-4 in the first half and took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at intermission.  Dayle Colpitts had four first half saves for the Hokies, stopping a pair of shots byCrystal Dunn and one each by Cameron Castleberry and Kealia Ohai.

The Hokies had two good early chances to score in the first half before the Tar Heels began to take a possession advantage late in the half, eventually leading to a goal by forward Paige Nielsen in the 35th minute.  After Colpitts saved a shot by Dunn with 32:15 left in the first half, Virginia Tech almost scored a little less than two minutes later on a bicycle kick shot by Ashley Meier that went high over the net.

With 25:53 left in the half, the Tar Heel defensive back line came up big as it blocked shots by Jazmine Reeves and Meier in the penalty area, keeping the game tied at 0-0.  Colpitts made saves on shots by Dunn at 20:46 and by Kealia Ohai at 14:12 before Nielsen put the Tar Heels ahead 1-0 with 10:40 left in the first half.

Nielsen picked up a loose ball at the top of the 18-yard box, dribbled to her right and found some space around the Hokies’ defense.  Nielsen sent a 15-yard arcing shot to the far post that curled over Colpitts into the upper left 90.  It was the Nebraska sophomore’s third goal of the season.

Virginia Tech had the run of play in the early moments of the second half before the Tar Heels struck with 30:28 left in the second half against the run of play.  Ohai fed a ball to Crystal Dunnwho carried into the top of the box before returning it to Ohai on the right side of the penalty area.  The Utah native deked a defender, took one touch and then buried a shot from 10 yards out to the far post for a 2-0 lead.

Carolina twice almost pushed the lead to three goals only to have Dayle Colpitts make tremendous saves.  She stopped Amber Munerlyn on the doorstep with 27:09 to play and then she made a critical save on a bullet of a shot by Ohai with 10 minutes left.

Virginia Tech would persevere, making things uncomfortable for UNC at the end of regulation.  The Hokies repeatedly pressured the UNC penalty area and it led to a goal off a corner kick.  Jazmine Reeves notched her fourth goal of the season on a header with 3:48 to play after a mad scramble in the goal mouth.  The Hokies had another corner kick with 42 seconds left and eventually got the header from the 8-yard line by Tiernan with less than 20 seconds left.  But Heaberlin held her line, making the save and earning the Tar Heels the win.

UNC outshot the Hokies 14-7 and had edge in corner kicks 11-5.  Colpitts had a season-high seven saves for Virginia Tech.

Sunday’s game against Notre Dame will be nationally televised on ESPN3 and also broadcast live on WCHL Radio (1360AM/97.9FM/  Tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Center.  All tickets are $5 general admission with UNC Faculty, Staff and Students admitted free with their UNC One Cards.

For the story, box score, and postgame audio, click here.