The No. 9 UNC women’s soccer team, 1-1 on the season, heads west hoping for some revenge when it takes on top-ranked and defending national champions, the UCLA Bruins, Friday night at 10 p.m. The Bruins knocked the Tar Heels out of the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Meanwhile, the UNC men’s team, ranked No. 6 in the preseason, begins its regular season in Chapel Hill this weekend.
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Head coach Anson Dorrance says he’s really encouraged by the play of his talented, but young women’s squad in the opening weekend of action at the Carolina Nike Classic that saw the Tar Heels split a pair of games against top-flight competition in the form of No. 4 Stanford and Ohio State.
“I like my team. I think we’ve got some promise. Against a very experienced and talented Stanford team, I thought we were the dominant team and created a lot of chances in that game,” Coach Dorrance says.
Freshman Megan Buckingham leads the youth movement on UNC’s roster. Buckingham scored the winning goal against OSU in the second half of a thrilling 1-0 victory Sunday at Fetzer Field in front of over 2,400 fans.
Buckingham says she’s been motivated and pushed hard by the upperclassmen.
“They’re welcoming, but then they also push you to be the best that you can be. Even at practice, if you’re having a bad day, they lift you up. If you’re having a really good day, they push you harder,” Buckingham says.
One of those influential upperclassmen is junior forward Summer Green. Green says she’s liked the opportunities the Tar Heel offense is creating, but knows they’ll need to finish their shots more efficiently as the season progresses.
“I was super impressed. I was really excited for everyone. We were able to cut in, but we weren’t able to finish those crosses that were in the air. We tried to figure that out at halftime. But we kept coming at them. I was impressed with everyone that went out there and was able to create chances,” Green says.
With the Friday night showdown with UCLA looming large, Coach Dorrance says Carolina needs to play smarter on offense to take it to the next level.
“The challenge for us is to figure out a way to do smarter things in the attacking third – find seams, make near-post runs, redirect shots low as opposed to high or over the bar. That will be the sign of a mature attacking team,” Coach Dorrance says.
The UNC-UCLA women’s contest will be televised on the Pac 12 Network.
As for the men, they’ll be looking to defend home turf in the Carolina Nike Classic when they face the 25th-ranked Cal Bears and follow that up with a tough Sunday meeting with No. 2 UCLA.
After a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Wake Forest in the Tar Heels’ final exhibition match, UNC will surely be hungry to make amends this weekend.