CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Luciana Zullo's goal in the 81st minute gave the South Carolina women's soccer team a 1-0 victory over second-seeded North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday afternoon (Nov. 13). The Gamecocks are now 12-6-1 on the season and advance to the NCAA second round for the sixth consecutive season.
"An amazing performance," head coach Shelley Smith said. "I'm so proud of this team. They came out today and did the job they needed to do. Everyone played a role and I'm just really proud of their effort."
It was a quiet first half as both sides settled in defensively early. Each side accounted for four total shots with UNC holding a 2-1 shot on goal advantage. The Gamecock's best opportunity came in the 16th minute when Catherine Barry put one off her left foot from inside the 8-yard box that was saved by the UNC goalkeeper. Gamecock goalie Heather Hinz accounted for two of her three saves in the first half as she earned her fifth shutout of the season.
After a scoreless first half, the two sides began the second half with more defensive pressure. The Gamecocks were able to earn an early opportunity when Remi Swartz put a shot on target in the 52nd minute.
South Carolina's defense came up big on multiple occasion, one of the biggest coming in the 69th minute when Swartz and Claire Griffiths blocked two UNC shots from inside the 8-yard box.
The Gamecocks broke through the Tar Heel defense in the 81st minute. Ryan Gareis came up the left sideline on a give-and-go with Lauren Chang. After Chang received the ball back, she quickly found Zullo unmarked at the top of the 18-yard box. Zullo settled the ball and with a quick left-footed strike, found the wide-open right side of the net. The goal was Zullo's second of the season and her ninth career game-winning goal. The assist was Chang's ninth of the season.
"Chang played it over, I took a touch with my left foot and slotted it into the bottom right corner," Zullo said of the goal. "It just fell the right way and I'm so happy I could capitalize off of that for my team."
UNC had a pair of shots in the final minute, but neither was on goal as the Gamecocks won in Chapel Hill for the third straight time. It's the first time UNC has been eliminated in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in its 40-year history.
For the game, UNC held an 11-9 shot advantage, while each side finished with three shots on goal.
South Carolina will face Hofstra (17-3-1), who defeated Providence 3-0 Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks and Pride will faceoff Friday, November 19, at Southern California with the time to be determined. It will be the first meeting between the two programs.
For the latest on women's soccer, visit GamecocksOnline.com or follow the team's social media accounts on Twitter @GamecockWSoccer, Facebook /GamecockWSoccer, and Instagram @GamecockWSoccer.