Daly plays in top-ranked North Carolina’s opener | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Daly plays in top-ranked North Carolina’s opener

Tribune and UNC reports

Provided by the University of North CarolinaHannah Daly

Defending NCAA women’s soccer champion North Carolina didn’t take long to put Hannah Daly, a 17-year-old freshman, between the posts.

The Whittell High School graduate played the final 14 minutes, 50 seconds of the Tar Heels’ 7-2 season-opening victory over third-ranked UCLA on Saturday right in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Tar Heels’ starting goalie Ashlyn Harris suffered a cut behind her ear when UCLA scored its first goal on a rebound shot. Daly was standing at the sub line when the injury happened, so she was mentally prepared for the substitution.

“I’m glad the coaches told me I’d be going in at halftime,” Daly said. “I sat on the bench, watching the clock the whole time, nervous and super excited as well.”

Working with the 24-year-old Harris has sharpened Daly’s game.

“Ashton is an amazing goalkeeper,” Daly said. “She is very disciplined and committed. It’s been really cool apprenticing her. I feel so very young next to her.”

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North Carolina decimated UCLA by scoring three times in the first 13 minutes, giving North Carolina coaches a chance to substitute freely.

Daly allowed UCLA’s second goal when Sydney Leroux got inside the box and deposited a 12-yard shot inside the far post.

Daly played two seasons for Whittell High School and decided to hasten her college career by graduating after her third year at the Zephyr Cove school. She doesn’t regret her decision.

“Not at all. I loved it at Whittell,” she said. “I honestly had visions of cliques here, but they have been so welcoming. I know it sounds cliche, but we are one big, happy family. I look up to these girls and see how athletically stronger they are and that I can be there as well.”

The top-ranked Tar Heels will continue their season against Central Florida on Friday in the opening round of the Carolina Nike Classic. North Carolina will conclude the Classic against UNC Greensboro on Sunday. Daly said she may play against Central Florida, and may get more minutes before Harris leaves to play with the national team next month.

“I will be playing in all of those games when she is gone,” she said. “The girls hit the ball a lot faster. Honestly, I feel like I’m improving every day playing against these top-level athletes. I’m excited for every practice.”

– UNC’s sports information department contributed to this story.