UNC Soccer Teams Embark on Busy Weekends

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.

Anson Dorrance (UNC Athletics)

Anson Dorrance (UNC Athletics)

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.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-soccer-teams-embark-busy-weekends/

UNC Soccer Kicking Into High Gear

Soccer season is back, and with it, the No. 4 UNC women’s soccer team begins the 2014 season Friday night when perennial powerhouse and seventh-ranked Stanford comes to town to take on the Tar Heels in the Carolina Nike Classic at Fetzer Field.

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The No. 22 Carolina men’s team meanwhile will play its final exhibition contest of the preseason at WakeForest Saturday.

The Tar Heel men are coming off a disappointing 9-6-5 campaign in 2013 and check in at No. 22 in the preseason NSCAA Coaches rankings.

The overall team defense is the strong point for this UNC squad, and the Tar Heels will rely heavily on defender Boyd Okwuono in 2014. The senior was named to the Hermann Trophy watch list. The prestigious award goes to the nation’s premier college soccer player.

The reigning ACC Defender of the Year has anchored a Tar Heel defense that has ranked first and sixth over the last two years in goals-against-average in the nation.

UNC men (UNC Athletics)

UNC men (UNC Athletics)

Carolina’s men will put the finishing touches on their preseason preparations with a stern test over in Winston-Salem when the Tar Heels take on the No. 11 Demon Deacons Saturday night at 7 p.m.

As for the women, head coach Anson Dorrance‘s team gets its 2014 campaign started Friday night when it meets the Cardinal. That showdown will be broadcast right here on WCHL.

The UNC women finished with a 20-5 mark in 2013, but enter this season with a few holes to fill with six senior starters gone from last season but as usual, the Tar Heels have plenty of talent returning ready to step into starring roles.

Another concern for the Tar Heels came in the form of a 2-1 exhibition loss to Missouri a week ago.

Coach Dorrance says it was a frustrating experience, but there were still some positives to take away.

“I saw absolute chaos, which is certainly going to be typical in the preseason. But I saw some flashes. Me and my staff aren’t entirely disappointed,” Coach Dorrance says.

Some bright spots come in the form of production out of the freshman players. Coach Dorrance says he’s liked what he’s seen out of the newest additions to the nation’s winningest college soccer program.

“We think the freshmen are going to play. It was nice to see [Megan] Buckingham score in the first scrimmage against UNC-Wilmington. And then, to see Alex Kimball score,” Coach Dorrance says.

Senior defender Satara Murray (UNC Athletics)

Senior defender Satara Murray (UNC Athletics)

Despite the defeat, Coach Dorrance says he was pleased with the fight displayed by his young Tar Heels in the preseason.

“What you want to make sure your team is doing is competing. I thought in the second half we did. Missouri pressured us as we knew they would,” Coach Dorrance says.

The Tar Heels aren’t satisfied with where they’re at right now. But the subpar performance against the Tigers might have been aided by injuries and national team obligations, which have kept a couple key playmakers off the Chapel Hill fields to date.

“What we need to do is see if we can play through the lines. And obviously, we can’t yet. Maybe some of the reasons are that Hanna Gardner is out with an injury and Katie Bowen is representing New Zealand,” Coach Dorrance says.

Ultimately, however, Coach Dorrance says he expects his team to grow as the season progresses and eventually be able to challenge the best in the ACC and nation.

“We’re going to improve this season like we did last spring. I think the team we put out there eventually will be a competitive one. I’m not discouraged, I’m just a little disappointed,” Coach Dorrance says.

It’s hard to doubt the legendary coach of the Tar Heels as the first step in their annual quest for a national championship begins Friday night in Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-soccer-kicking-high-gear/

MSoc’s Okwuonu Tabbed For Hermann Trophy Watch List

For a second-straight season, North Carolina defender Boyd Okwuonu has been identified as a potential candidate for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy as announced on Wednesday.

The reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Defender of the Year has anchored a Tar Heel defense that has ranked first and sixth, respectively, over the last two years in goals-against-average in the nation.

Okwuonu, a senior from Edmond, Okla., has been recognized already by TopDrawerSoccer.com on its preseason Best XI list.

The MAC Hermann Trophy is the most prestigious individual award in NCAA soccer presented annually to one male and one female athlete. The winners will be announced Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.

Near the end of the collegiate regular season, NCAA Division I coaches that are NSCAA members will vote on their top choices and the lists will be narrowed down to the top 15 players. College soccer fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the selection process, by voting for their favorite semifinalist in November at the MAC Hermann Trophy website, managed by LockerDome.

From that pool of 30, six finalists (three men, three women) will be chosen for the award. The winners will be announced in January.

For more information about the history of the MAC Hermann Trophy and a list of past winners, visit the MAC Hermann Trophy information page at the NSCAA website.

For more information about the history of the MAC Hermann Trophy, and news and video from previous MAC Hermann presentations, visit lockerdome.com/machermanntrophy.

Carolina opens its exhibition schedule with home matches against Gardner-Webb on Friday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m and versus the Carolina Railhawks on Monday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. The Tar Heels will also face ACC rival Wake Forest in an exhibition on Aug. 23 in Winston-Salem, N.C., at 7 p.m.

The regular season opens with a pair of powerhouse programs traveling to Chapel Hill over Labor Day weekend to take part in the annual Carolina Nike Classic. The Tar Heels will take on No. 7 California on Friday, Aug. 29 and No. 4 UCLA on Sunday, Aug. 31. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m., at Fetzer Field.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/msocs-okwuonu-tabbed-hermann-trophy-watch-list/

Tar Heels To Host Railhawks In Men’s Soccer Exhibition

The University of North Carolina will host the Carolina Railhawks in an exhibition men’s soccer match on Monday, Aug. 18 at Fetzer Field beginning at 7 p.m.
The match will serve as a fundraiser for the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund. Admission is free, but donations will be collected to support the former Tar Heel captain who passed away suddenly at the age of 22 of an Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy on August 5, 2012.

The Kirk Urso Memorial Fund provides a platform to develop and support youth heart health research and programming to honor the memory of Kirk Urso.

A 2012 graduate of North Carolina, Urso led the Tar Heels to four consecutive NCAA Men’s College Cup appearances and captained the 2011 club to the national title. He was selected by the Columbus Crew in the first round (No.10 overall) of the 2012 Supplemental Draft, and appeared in six games (five starts) with one assist.

Urso was admired for his unwavering work ethic and steadfast character both on and off the field.

The Fund supports research and programming focused on congenital heart defects and sudden cardiac death in youth.

Carolina will also host Gardner-Webb in its first exhibition of the season on Friday, Aug. 15 starting at 7 p.m.

The regular season opens with a pair of powerhouse programs traveling to Chapel Hill over Labor Day weekend to take part in the annual Carolina Nike Classic. The Tar Heels will take on California on Friday, Aug. 29 and UCLA on Sunday, Aug. 31. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m., at Fetzer.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-host-railhawks-mens-soccer-exhibition/

Carolina Men’s Soccer Adds O’Keefe To Coaching Lineup

The UNC men’s soccer program is making moves this offseason. In an effort to fortify recruiting efforts, earlier this week, the Tar Heels and head coach Carlos Somoano hired Jason O’Keefe as an assistant coach.

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O’Keefe joins the Carolina soccer team after spending the last four seasons at Saint Louis University as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

O’Keefe should provide an added boost in the recruiting department, his primary responsibility for the Tar Heels. He’s coached or recruited 32 players that have been drafted and played professionally in the United States and abroad.

O'Keefe (UNC Athletics)

O’Keefe (UNC Athletics)

O’Keefe was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the 2012 season. He guided the Billikens to an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament title and a No. 8 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The man who began his prolific coaching career inside the ACC at Wake Forest in 2003 and graduated from Greensboro College in 1997 with a degree in history and secondary education, says he’s “honored and humbled to join an institution like North Carolina that strives for the best both academically and on the playing field.”

There’s been one consistent theme to O’Keefe throughout his career – that’s winning. In addition to his recent success at Saint Louis, he won a ACC regular season championship with the Demon Deacons in 2004 and guided the Cincinnati Bearcats to a Big East crown in 2006.

The Tar Heels kick off their 2014 campaign Aug. 29 by hosting the Carolina Nike Classic and welcoming west coast foes California and UCLA to Chapel Hill.

By all outside appearances, it looks like an impressive hire for UNC, which struggled to find the back of the net a season ago. If O’Keefe is able to attract some more offensive talent to Chapel Hill to go along with an already formidable defense, it will be a mission accomplished.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-mens-soccer-hires-okeefe/

WCHL Expands 2014 UNC Soccer Broadcast Coverage

Updated 8:06 a.m., June 13, 2014

WCHL Championship Sports is proud to announce expanding coverage of UNC soccer this fall with an additional game added to the lineup.

The 2014 broadcast slate will kick off with the Carolina Nike Classic on Friday, Aug. 22 as the perennial powerhouse Carolina women’s soccer squad takes on national contender Stanford under the lights in Chapel Hill.

The WCHL broadcast team will be live on-site at Fetzer Field for 11 contests this season, nine women’s games and two men’s matchups.

Both squads will be aiming for more national championship glory after disappointing postseason finishes in 2013.

 

Women’s

Friday, August 22 7p – v Stanford (Carolina Nike Classic)

Sunday, August 24 3p – v Ohio State (Carolina Nike Classic)

Sunday, September 7 12n – v Arkansas* (Duke Nike Classic)

*The opponents’ days on the original schedule were flipped. Carolina plays Penn State Friday and Arkansas Sunday. WCHL will not broadcast the Penn State contest.

Sunday, September 28 1p – @ NC State

Friday, October 3 5p – v Virginia Tech (immediately followed by HS football?)

Thursday, October 9 7p – v WakeForest

Sunday, October 12 1p – v Pittsburgh

Thursday, October 23 7p – v Florida State

Sunday, October 26 1p – v Miami

 

Men’s

Sunday, August 31 7p – v UCLA (Carolina Nike Classic)

Tuesday, October 7 7p – v Campbell

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wchl-expands-2014-unc-soccer-broadcast-coverage/

Tar Heel Soccer Duo Named All-South Region

CHAPEL HILL– Carolina men’s soccer players Boyd Okwuonu and Jonathan Campbell have been selected to the National Association of America All-South Region Team.

Okwuonu, a first team All-South member, was the ACC Defender of the Year and anchored the stingy Tar Heel defense at center back in all 20 matches this season.

Campbell, a third team All-South member, was a big contributor on the defensive side of the field and was also named to the All-ACC second team.

The Tar Heel defense only allowed 13 goals all season long. That mark was the sixth fewest in the nation.

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-soccer-duo-named-south-region/

Which Gets Upgrades First, Soccer Or Basketball?

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says Fetzer Field is Carolina’s athletic facility most in need of upgrades, but money will likely be the deciding factor when it comes down to which programs see improvement first.

“Basketball is such a primary revenue driver for the department, it’s hard to not think about basketball as a way to potentially pay for additional projects,” Cunningham says. “We’re doing them in tandem, but the one I’d like to complete first would be soccer.”

Fetzer Field is the home of the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, six track programs, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams. The facility was constructed in 1935 and saw renovations in 1988-90.

The women’s soccer team is by far the most successful Division I program as it has won 22 national titles in the sport’s 34-year history. The Tar Heels are one win away from going back to the College Cup in search of defending their national title.

The Dean E. Smith Center opened January 18, 1986 and has since seen two expansions—one in 1992 and another in 2000. Its current capacity is just less than 22,000.

Cunningham says there are still more questions than answers about what to do with the Smith Center: renovate or rebuild.

“When you begin the discussion of enhancing an existing facility—particularly a building that’s almost 30 years old—at some point, the efficiency of renovation is surpassed by a new building,” Cunningham says. “So, I think we need to look at both. It’s just too early to tell which of those potential options becomes more appealing over time.”

In March, Cunningham told WCHL that changes to the UNC basketball facility were years away and that the discussions were just beginning. Not much has changed in the eight months since word first broke that changes were coming. And, he says he wants to take the next 12 months to get the answers to what route UNC Athletics should take.

Many of the lower-level seats are reserved for season ticket holders and lifetime seat holders. Those lifetime seat holders are already major contributors to the athletic department financially and ones that could greatly benefit a new venue. But, are the Dean Dome lifetime seat holders guaranteed seats in a potential new facility?

“It’s a great question,” Cunningham says. “That is something that we have to take a look at: what are the obligations that the institution has to the donors, and what obligation do we have to new donors? So, that becomes a very significant question and challenge that we will hope to get some answers to over the next 12 months.”

If renovations are the plan of attack in the 27-year-old facility, Cunningham says one addition could be to add a type of luxury suite or club box much like the Blue Zone at Kenan Stadium.

“The suite rights for suites and club seats more than pays for the debt service,” Cunningham says. “In fact, it turns a little bit of revenue back to the general fund for the department. So, if we took that model and applied it to basketball, is there a way to create premium seating that would cover the cost of construction and then increase revenue for the department that would help us fund our other sports.”

Cunningham says that would take some revenue away from individual seats, but may offer the option to gain revenue from the space the seats took up by increased value that square footage would then have.

Cunningham says the bottom line is that no decisions are being made right now but that the athletic department is going to make sure that it can continue to recruit top players, coaches, and contributors.

“How do we preserve one of the best basketball programs in the country and put it in a facility that will continue to attract players and coaches,” Cunningham says. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to sort through what is appropriate right now.”

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gets-upgrades-first-soccer-basketball/

Survive and Advance: UNC Men’s Soccer Beats USF in NCAA Opener

CHAPEL HILL–Carolina posted a 1-0 victory over South Florida at Fetzer Field Thursday night to move on to the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.

The Tar Heels improved to 9-5-5 on the season and will now travel out west to play No. 12 seed UC Irvine on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Omar Holness scored the only goal of the match at the 3:27 mark, and the Tar Heels sealed the win with their trademark shutdown defense.

All-ACC goalkeeper Brendan Moore made two saves to up his clean sheet total to 10 on the year. He leads the conference in that statistic.

UNC maintained a 10-5 shot advantage and had seven corner kicks while USF only had four. With the win, Carolina  improved to 30-17-6 in the NCAA Tournament and 11-1-4 record at Fetzer Field dating back to 2008.

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/survive-advance-unc-mens-soccer-beats-usf-ncaa-opener/

NCAA Journey Begins for Carolina Men’s Soccer

CHAPEL HILL– NCAA Tournament action gets underway for the Carolina men’s soccer team (8-5-5) Thursday night at Fetzer Field when they kick things off against South Florida.

UNC, once ranked as the top team in the nation earlier in the season, has struggled to get their offense on par with their stingy defense for much of the 2013 campaign.

Now, the Tar Heels will strive to advance past the first round in a postseason where the program owns a 29-17-6 overall mark. In fact, UNC has appeared in 14 of the last 15 NCAA Tournaments.

Thursday will be the seventh match-up between the Bulls and Tar Heels. Carolina hasn’t lost to USF since 1982.

But the Bulls come into the contest off a thrilling win over No.11 Connecticut to claim the American Athletic Conference Tournament title Sunday.

Don’t be surprised if this one is a defensive struggle as both teams rank among the national leaders in goals allowed.

Tickets will be free to all UNC students. The 7 p.m. Thursday match will also be streamed online on GoHeelsTV.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/ncaa-journey-begins-carolina-mens-soccer/