CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 seed UNC women’s soccer team is one win away from returning to the College Cup to defend its national title, but it’s going to have to do so without last year’s player of the year, Crystal Dunn.
“We were playing Texas A&M, and she stepped wrong and developed a high-ankle sprain,” UNC head coach, Anson Dorrance says. “Unfortunately she’s back on the injured list; we’re not sure about her ability to play this weekend.”
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Dunn missed the ACC semifinals and the first round of the NCAAs. She returned to face Indiana in the second round and Texas A&M in the third.
Coach Dorrance says her time off the field has really shown him the strength of the rest of the team.
“Obviously we’re hoping she comes back,” Coach Dorrance says. “The cool thing about losing her actually was watching these young kids step up and fill her spot. It allowed us to compete effectively against A&M. Jo Boyles—a young kid from Raleigh—stepped in and filled Crystal’s minutes.”
UNC has won 22 national titles, including 21 NCAA championships. Collegiate women’s soccer is only 34 years old. Carolina also has a winning percentage of .934.
A win against No. 2 seed UCLA Saturday means consecutive trips to the College Cup. But, Coach Dorrance says this hasn’t been and won’t be the same journey as last season.
“Honestly, this team is stronger thank last year’s,” Coach Dorrance says. “Last year’s run was a miracle run. We were a No. 2 seed. This year’s team is fighting the fact that we’ve got three starters out. Last year’s team did not have that. So even though this year’s team is stronger, the injury bug has taken that off the table.”
The Bruins are 20-1-2 and have shut out each of their opponents in the opening rounds just like Carolina.
“They’ve got excellent leadership in their coaching ranks,” Coach Dorrance says. “They have talent all over the field. They’re a team with a lot of seniors on the field, and, of course, that makes them more dangerous. So, they can certainly not just beat us, but they could also win the national championship.”
But, while Coach Dorrance says he’s concerned about the strength facing him down the sideline in UCLA’s Amanda Cromwell—a former player he coached on a US National team—UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunninham says he’s got the utmost confidence in the veteran leader, Dorrance.
“They do a remarkable job year in and year out, and it begins with the coaching staff with his ability—and the entire staff—to attrack women that are outstanding students and players as well,” Cunningham says.
Heading into the quarterfinals, six of the eight teams remaining were from the ACC. In all, eight ACC teams made it to the big dance with WakeForest and Notre Dame both being knocked out in the third round.
NCAA Quarterfinals (Friday)
Boston College at No. 1 Florida State – 3:00 p.m. – Live Stats/Result
Duke at No. 1 Virginia Tech – 4:00 p.m. – Live Stats/Result
No. 3 Michigan at No. 1 Virginia – 7:00 p.m. – Live Stats/Result
Kickoff between Carolina and UCLA is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Saturday at Fetzer Field. You can hear all the action live on WCHL immediately following the UNC-Duke football game.