The tenth-ranked North Carolina women’s soccer team, 3-2-1 on the season, still has a ways to go to climb to the national championship-winning level head coach Anson Dorrance is so accustomed to. But no matter the year, the end goal remains the same for the Tar Heels.
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“We’re starting to get honed. We’re starting to figure things out. A lot of the young kids we’re playing are starting to get it together. I know where we can be. I don’t think this will be a finished product even by NCAA Tournament time, but we’re going to be a handful,” Coach Dorrance says.
The freshman and sophomore-laden Tar Heel roster has had to grow up quick with a schedule that is as usual, brutally tough with ranked foe after ranked foe lining up hungry to take down the most storied program in women’s college soccer.
Coach Dorrance has talked about ‘defending the legacy’, and that’s exactly the pressure that faces this year’s bunch of Tar Heels.
With injuries and unexpected departures, Coach Dorrance says his squad has to overcome the obstacles and fight past them.
“We thought we were only going to lose six – the six that signed pro contracts. We didn’t expect to lose Caitlyn Ball, our starting center back. We lost her against WakeForest with a concussion. Then we lost basically my best returning player in Alexa Newfield. All of a sudden, we’re staggering through all kinds of things. […] We’re trying to ham-and-egg a unit,” Coach Dorrance says.
But there’s good news for UNC. According to Coach Dorrance, they’ve already faced, by far, their toughest competition, and in that stern test out at UCLA, the Tar Heels battled their way to a scoreless draw.
“It’s going to be hard for teams to score against us. We certainly saw that out of UCLA. That’s the best college team I have ever played against in my career – the UCLA team we played this year out at UCLA. They played wonderful soccer. But for the grace of god, they could have beaten us. We were dodging bullets,” Coach Dorrance says.
Last weekend, Carolina downed a pair of ranked opponents at the Duke Nike Classic. Coach Dorrance says he’s beginning to see the pieces come together for his team, but they’ll need to continue to progress offensively to truly contend.
“You could see some pieces. Jessie Scarpa is a special player. I think if we could get her into a position where she can attack for us, I think we’re going to be more of an offensive threat. I think I know where we can go. I think we can be a lot better. This was the emergence this weekend,” Coach Dorrance says.
The strong points for Carolina come from the defense and the depth. In fact, Coach Dorrance says he’s comfortable going 17 deep in his roster without much of a noticeable drop-off in play.
“Our depth is legit. We can literally go 16, 17 players deep. And there’s not that big of a difference between player 17 and player 11. They’re pretty close. You can see that when we sub. The subs basically won the game for us [vs. Arkansas]. We scored with all of our reserves on the field,” Coach Dorrance says.
The Tar Heels have some time to evaluate the season so far and shore up the offensive attack before returning to the pitch to take on ACC rival and national powerhouse Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 20.