North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance said he enjoys watching sophomore forward Jessie Scarpa expand her game.
“What you’re seeing is the construction of a superstar,” the veteran Tar Heels mentor said.
Scarpa delivered a second-half brace for her fourth and fifth goals of the season Sunday, and senior forward Summer Green also netted her fifth as the fourth-ranked Tar Heels dispatched UCLA 3-1 at Fetzer Field. Compounding the loss for UCLA was the ejection of All-American forward Taylor Smith for throwing a punch with three minutes left in the match.
In the process UNC (7-0-1) gained a measure of revenge on several levels against UCLA (3-4), which with nine starters gone from last year has tumbled from a No. 4 preseason ranking.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Two years ago the Bruins knocked out the Tar Heels 1-0 in double overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals at Fetzer and went on the following week to claim the national championship at WakeMed Soccer Park by overcoming two more No. 1 seeds out of the ACC, Virginia and Florida State.
Last year UNC and then-No. 1 UCLA played to a scoreless tie on the West Coast. And there’s the matter of junior forward Amber Munerlyn. The California native was one of the Tar Heels’ leading scorers in 2014 as a sophomore but transferred to UCLA for this year.
Scarpa said she didn’t think there were any hard feelings regarding Munerlyn, who played 18 quiet minutes off the bench in the midfield Sunday. “A lot of us are still friends with Amber,” she said.
If there was any latent resentment, Scarpa took it out on UCLA center back Madison Tye, getting both of her second-half goals at Tye’s expense after Green put UNC in front in the 25th minute with a 23-yard strike that capped a dribbling exhibition through traffic.
In the 54th minute, Scarpa got between two defenders to haul down a long ball in the midfield. “I bodied up on the center back,” Scarpa said, found some space and unleashed a shot that UCLA goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman deflected initially. But the rebound bounced right to Scarpa, who tapped it in for the score.
Scarpa’s second goal came after UCLA had closed to 2-1 in the 82nd minute on Kodi Lavrusky’s goal from 10 yards, on an assist from Smith.
Three minutes later Scarpa intercepted a back pass from Tye to UCLA defender Gabrielle Matulich and beat Schechtman one-on-one to the right post.
“I saw the opportunity to press when the center back played the ball across the 18 (yard line) to another back,” Scarpa said. “So I put it in the net.”
Dorrance moved Scarpa to center forward this season after playing her on defense as a freshman while she recovered from an ACL tear that dated to her high school days. By the end of the season Scarpa had become a starter at outside defender, but Dorrance had bigger plans for her.
“I think she’s a whirlwind of an attacker,” he said. “We couldn’t wait to throw her up front.”
Despite some anxious moments in the endgame, UNC dominated play against UCLA, outshooting the Bruins 20-9. Lavrusky’s goal was the only shot on net UCLA managed all day.
UCLA’s frustration spilled over into a red card for Smith when she punched UNC midfielder Katie Bowen after they tangled going for a loose ball.
“We got in a bit of a tussle and went to the ground, and she punched me in the stomach,” Bowen said, shaking her head. “Never in my 17 years of playing this sport have I ever thought to retaliate with a punch.”