GREENSBORO, NC (March 20, 2009) – Nikki Washington’s second-half goal was the difference as the University of North Carolina edged Sky Blue FC 2-1 in an exhibition match at Macpherson Stadium. The match featured the defending NCAA College Cup Champions against Sky Blue FC, which is preparing for the inaugural season of Women’s Professional Soccer.
UNC opened the scoring early in the first half thanks to two former Jersey Sky Blue W-League players – Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira. Heath – a gold medalist with the United States Women’s National Team – scored the goal.
Australian international Sarah Walsh scored the only goal for Sky Blue FC in the closing moments of the opening half off an assist from former UNC All-American Heather O’Reilly. Four former Tar Heels played in the match for Sky Blue FC including O’Reilly, Kacey White, Yael Averbuch, and Jenni Branam.
Sky Blue FC returns to New Jersey on Wednesday after a month in Greensboro. The NJ/NY representative in WPS will open the season on April 5th at 4 p.m. when it hosts three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta and the Los Angeles Sol at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ. (888-SBFC-TIX | www.SkyBlueStore.com)
Sky Blue FC had the first good chance of the game in the seventh minute when Natasha Kai got on the end of a serve from Christie Rampone, but her header was over the goal.
North Carolina put sustained pressure on the Sky Blue FC goal starting with a high shot by Heath in the 14th minute. One minute later, Courtney Jones got in behind on a breakaway but placed her shot right into the hands of Sky Blue FC keeper Karen Bardsley.
In the 17th minute, Washington rolled a shot across the goal off a cross from Nogueira before Heath finally broke the ice in the 18th minute. Nogueira found Heath in the box and she buried a high shot into the goal from close range. Both Nogueira and Heath played in New Jersey for Sky Blue during the 2007 W-League season.
Sky Blue FC knotted the score in the closing moments of the half on an easy finish by Walsh. The Tar Heels defense held up looking for an offside call but the flag stayed down putting Walsh and O’Reilly in alone. Walsh played the ball to O’Reilly, who drew out Tar Heels keeper Ashlyn Harris before returning a pass to the Australian to finish into the open goal.
Sky Blue FC threatened in the second half but couldn’t find the finishing touch. In the 54th minute, after a scramble in the box, White’s effort was stopped by Harris and the ensuing rebound ended up on the foot of Averbuch, who fired wide left from top of box.
Washington’s game-winner came in the 67th minute. The United States youth international carried the ball on a long run up the right side before cutting into the box. She beat two defenders before finishing past Branam into the upper left side of the goal.
Sky Blue FC continued to press late, but Brazilian Rosana missed left in the 77th minute and Harris stopped a shot from Walsh before Kai fired wide left, both within a one-minute span shortly after.
The game was delayed in the 81st minute when North Carolina players Kim Currie and Merritt Mathias collided heads and had to taken away by ambulance. Sky Blue FC’s only other chance after play resumed was a shot off a corner by Christie Shaner that was easily stopped by Harris.
Special thanks to UNC Student Manager Sarah Woerner for contributing to this game report.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: Ashlyn Harris, Meghan Klingenberg, Whitney Engen, Merritt Mathias, Casey Nogueira, Rachel Givan, Nikki Washington, Kristi Eveland, Ali Hawkins, Courtney Jones, Tobin Heath.
SKY BLUE FC: Karen Bardsley, Christie Rampone, Jen Buczkowski, Anita Asante, Natasha Kai, Sarah Walsh, Heather O’Reilly, Meghan Schnur, Collette McCallum, Keeley Dowling, Kacey White.
UNC: Tobin Heath (Casey Nogueira) 18th minute
SBFC: Sarah Walsh (Heather O’Reilly) 44th minute
UNC: Nikki Washington 67th minute