UNC Legend Heather O’Reilly Retires From International Soccer

Thursday marked the end of an era for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.

Midfielder Heather O’Reilly–a former UNC standout–announced her retirement from international soccer after 15 years.

Her last game is scheduled for Sept. 15, as the U.S. takes on Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.

In 230 career appearances for the National Team, O’Reilly has tallied an astonishing 46 goals (12th all-time) and 54 assists (sixth all-time).

O'Reilly began her career with the U.S. National Team as a 17-year-old in 2002. She began playing at UNC the next year. (USSoccer.org)

O’Reilly began her career with the U.S. National Team as a 17-year-old in 2002. She began playing at UNC the next year. (USSoccer.org)

“I have spent nearly half my life in a U.S. Soccer uniform, so making the decision to retire from international play was incredibly hard and emotional,” said O’Reilly. “But quite simply, after 230 caps, thousands of practices, many trips around the world, and having played in three World Cups, and three Olympics, it just feels like the right time.

“I’ve had an incredibly complete career playing for my country and it has been an absolute honor to represent the USWNT for the last 15 years,” she continued. “I’m leaving this team with a lot happiness in my heart and pride for what we’ve accomplished.”

O’Reilly began her career with the national team as a 17-year-old back in 2002–before she had ever set foot on campus in Chapel Hill.

Upon her arrival, however, she helped lead the Tar Heels to a pair of national championships in 2003 and 2006.

Throughout her highly-decorated college career, O’Reilly scored 59 goals and dished out 49 assists. She was also named Offensive MVP of the 2006 NCAA Tournament for her goals during the Semifinal and Final games.

From there, she went on to play in the 2007, 2011 and 2015 Women’s World Cups. She would have likely been on the 2003 roster as well, had it not been for an untimely broken leg.

On top of being a World Cup champion in 2015, O’Reilly was also a member of teams that won three straight Olympic Gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

In the 2006 NCAA Championship against undefeated Notre Dame, O'Reilly scored one of UNC's two goals. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos)

In the 2006 NCAA Championship against undefeated Notre Dame, O’Reilly scored one of UNC’s two goals. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos)

Although she’ll remain active in her professional club career, this decision will give her more time to spend with her family and husband–former UNC lacrosse player Dave Werry.

“I have been very lucky to have an amazing support system around me my entire U.S. Women’s National Team career,” said O’Reilly. “I want to thank my family and my husband Dave for being my biggest fans, and the amazing coaches who helped me not only get to this level, but instilled in me the qualities to help me stay here.

O’Reilly’s current head coach with the National Team, Jill Ellis, also gave a statement on the news.

“Heather has been a vitally important part of our program for many years and has continued to set a standard for professionalism and work ethic,” Ellis said. “She’s been right in the thick of things for most of our big moments over the past 15 years and has always been the ultimate team player and a world-class person.

“She should be incredibly proud of the indelible impact she’s made on this team and on women’s soccer.”


Fall Sports Calendar Heats Up At UNC

Fall sports season is officially in full swing on campus.

The UNC men’s soccer season gets underway Friday night as the #8 Tar Heels host Cal Poly, 7:30 pm at Fetzer Field. Carolina also hosts St. Louis on Sunday at 7:30.

Also this weekend, UNC women’s soccer is in Florida: Friday evening they’re in Fort Myers facing Florida Gulf Coast at 7 pm; then on Sunday they’re in Boca Raton, taking on Florida Atlantic at 1:00.

The Tar Heel volleyball team gets its season under way this weekend in the Penn State Classic. The Heels face Georgia Southern at 5 pm Friday, then a doubleheader on Saturday against West Virginia at 1 pm and host Penn State at 7.

And the Tar Heel field hockey team, #1 in the nation, is in Winston-Salem for the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Saturday at 2 pm, they face #10 Michigan, then they take on Iowa at 2 pm Sunday.

Of course Carolina football still has a week before its season begins, down in Atlanta against the Georgia Bulldogs. But the team got some news this week too, as seven Tar Heels have been named to the watch list for this year’s Senior Bowl. Center Lucas Crowley, tackle Jon Heck, wide receiver Mack Hollins, cornerback Des Lawrence, tailback T.J. Logan, guard Caleb Peterson, and wide receiver/punt returner Ryan Switzer are all on the list.

The Reese’s Senior Bowl will take place in Mobile, Alabama on January 28; it’s considered the nation’s premier college football all-star game.


Two Weekend Wins Get UNC Women’s Soccer Off to Undefeated Start

A pair of shutouts over the weekend vaulted the ninth-ranked UNC women’s soccer team to an undefeated start to the new season.

UNC took on the University of Central Florida in the season-opening match on Friday night as part of the 2016 Carolina Nike Classic at Fetzer Field.

Two second-half goals – one each from Sarah Ashley Firstenberg and Alex Kimball – gave the Tar Heels all the fire power they would need to get a 2-0 result and the team’s first win of the season.

UNC returned to Fetzer Field on Sunday for a matchup with UNC – Charlotte.

Carolina got off to a quick start in Sunday’s contest with a goal to put UNC up 1-0 in just the seventh minute of game action on the strength of a Hanna Gardner goal.

The game stayed at 1-0 throughout a majority of the game. With about 10 minutes left in the game, UNC put home an insurance goal off the foot of Zoe Redei. Less than three minutes later, the fate of the game was sealed when Cameron Castleberry put home a penalty kick for the Tar Heels to reach the final 3-0 scoring line.

Duke women’s soccer also won both of its games in the Classic over the weekend beating Wofford 9-1 and UCF 3-1.

UNC now travels to Florida for a pair of matchups in the Sunshine State, playing Florida Gulf Coast on Friday and Florida Atlantic on Sunday.


UNC Women’s Soccer Opens Season Friday vs. UCF

Looking to end its longest national title drought since the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament began in 1982, the No. 9 UNC women’s soccer team begins its regular season Friday night at Fetzer Field with a game against the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights.

It’s the first of two games for the Tar Heels this weekend, as they host the Carolina Nike Classic. They’ll also play host to the Charlotte 49ers on Sunday.

For UNC–which have gone three straight years without accomplishing their only goal each season–it will be an important weekend to figure out which new players are primed to step up.

Head coach Anson Dorrance enters his 38th season having lost six of last year’s 11 starters. Three more potential starters for this season may redshirt due to injury or National Team duties.

Cameron Castleberry tore her ACL last November, and may not yet be at full strength for this season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Cameron Castleberry tore her ACL last November, and may not yet be at full strength for this season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

This comes after last year’s Tar Heels fell from their No. 1 ranking–and ended up losing in the NCAA Second Round–due to a rash of injuries.

“This season I just don’t know to be quite honest,” Dorrance said in a statement during the offseason. “It’s how well the injured players come back.  It’s how well the freshmen are able to adjust to the collegiate level.

“The freshmen are good,” he continued. “Some of them are incredibly athletic.  Some are incredibly technical and tactical.  So of all the years I’ve coach here coming into the season this is the greatest mystery to me.”

UCF, meanwhile, is coached by former UNC legend Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. In another interesting bit of history, the Tar Heels defeated the Knights in the sport’s first-ever NCAA Championship Game back in 1982.

Coming off a solid 12-6-2 record in 2015, UCF will surely be looking to build some momentum for its program with an upset over the heavily-favored Tar Heels.

In the end, it’ll likely come down to whether or not UNC can find some early offense. The Tar Heels scored just one first-half goal during their last eight games of 2015, as they watched their season come to a disappointing end.

If this new group of girls can gel together well in the opening minutes, they have the potential to put the pressure on UCF, while also finding some much-needed confidence.

The game is scheduled to begin Friday at 7:30 p.m.


U.S. Women’s Soccer Clinches Group at Rio Olympics

Despite a shocking 2-2 draw against Colombia on Tuesday night, the U.S. National Team took the first step to winning its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer.

Former Tar Heel standout Crystal Dunn scored the first goal in Tuesday’s game and then assisted on the second, highlighting the presence that the UNC program has over the current roster–with five of the 18 active members of the team having played their college careers in Chapel Hill.

Midfielder Tobin Heath has yet to score a goal in Rio, but has used her amazing passing and ball control to act as a conductor out on the pitch. She also picked up an assist to Carli Lloyd in each of the first two games against New Zealand and France.

Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen were rock-solid in defense in USA’s 1-0 win over France, but the pair has been split up in the other two games as head coach Jill Ellis uses a rotating cast on the back line.

Midfielder Allie Long did a fine job as a starter in the first two games, before coming on as a substitute midway through the second half against Colombia.

Having now qualified for the quarterfinals as a result of their group victory, these former Tar Heels and their teammates will now face Sweden on Friday night.

The game will be a reunion of sorts as former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage–who led the country to the gold medal during the 2012 Olympics in London–is now leading her home nation.

Whether the U.S. continues its winning ways or falls victim to a stunning upset, the influence of the UNC program will still loom large.


UNC Women’s Soccer Ninth in Preseason Rankings

Entering 2016 in desperate search of another championship, UNC women’s soccer was ranked ninth in the preseason poll released Wednesday by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

If there’s one thing that can be taken from the news, it’s that the Tar Heels should have plenty of reason to be motivated.

Although last year’s 15-5-1 record would be considered a great success anywhere else, this particular program has spent the last three and half decades setting a bar as high as the Empire State Building.

Since the inception of the sport’s NCAA Tournament in 1982, head coach Anson Dorrance has made sure UNC never once had to brave through three consecutive years without winning it all.

During that span, The Tar Heels have won 21 of the sport’s 34 national titles.

The amazing streak came to a screeching halt last year, however, after an upset loss to Texas A&M in the second-round.

Not since 2012’s exhilarating title-game victory over Penn State has UNC been able to do what was once considered as sure as death and taxes.

Defender Hanna Gardner–a redshirt senior who scored the championship-winning goal against Penn State as a freshman–will lead a group that includes six returning starters.

A highly-regarded freshman class also joins a Tar Heel roster that knows the pressure to win is as high as its ever been.

The season kicks off for UNC in just over two weeks, when it hosts UCF on Friday, Aug. 19 as part of the Carolina Nike Classic.

Full Preseason Women’s Soccer Top 25

1. Florida State (2015 Semifinalist)

2. Penn State (2015 National Champion)

3. Duke (2015 Finalist)

4. Virginia

5. Stanford

6. West Virginia

7. Florida

8. Texas A&M

9. North Carolina

10. Rutgers (2015 Semifinalist)

11. Southern California

12. Auburn

13. Notre Dame

14. Clemson

15. Connecticut

16. Brigham Young

17. Virginia Tech

18. California

19. Texas Tech

20. Arizona

21. Santa Clara

22. Mississippi

23. Ohio State

24. South Carolina

25. Loyola Marymount


UNC Grad Katie Bowen Representing New Zealand at Rio Olympics

Another UNC Tar Heel has been chosen to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Katie Bowen will represent New Zealand as a member of the women’s soccer team at the games beginning next month.

Bowen is a 2016 UNC graduate for played for Carolina’s national title squad in 2012 and earned All-Conference and All-America honors while in Chapel Hill.

Bowen was a reserve for New Zealand at the 2012 Olympics in London and was part of the squad that competed in the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand, ranked No. 17 in the world, will face the United States – defending Olympic and World Cup Champion – in its first match on August 3.

Bowen enters the Olympics with 37 appearances with the national team under her belt. The 22-year-old plays professionally for FC Kansas City in the National Women’s Soccer Leauge.

Former UNC star Harrison Barnes will be a part of the United States men’s basketball team in Rio.


Four Tar Heels Named to Women’s Soccer Academic All-ACC Team

Four players from the UNC women’s soccer tam have been named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Team, which was announced Tuesday.

Junior midfielder Joanna Boyles was named to the Academic All-Conference team for the second consecutive year. Boyles was also named second-team All-ACC for her performance on the field during the Tar Heels 2015 campaign.

Boyes is joined by first-time honorees Paige Nielsen, Alexa Newfield and Dorian Bailey.

Nielsen is a finalist for the 2015 Senior CLASS Award as well.

Bailey is a freshman from Kansas City and Newfield was UNC’s leading goal scorer last season. Newfield was also named third-team All-ACC.

Nielsen and Newfield were also recently selected in the National Women’s Soccer League draft.

The four Tar Heels honored were the most on the team since 2012.


UNC’s Dorrance Awarded Top Honor from US Soccer

UNC women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance has been named the 2016 winner of the Werner Fricker Builder Award – U. S. Soccer’s highest honor.

The award is given to an individual or group who have dedicated at least 20 years of services to the sport, working to establish a lasting legacy in the history and structure of soccer in the United States, according to a release.

Dorrance is a former head coach of the Women’s National Team.

U. S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement:

“Anson has worked tirelessly over the years to build a program at North Carolina that led the way for other universities to invest in women’s soccer, and from which soccer in the U.S. has benefited tremendously for the past three and a half decades. His work with the National Team and with National Team players at the collegiate level has helped to grow the game at home and abroad, and his legacy in soccer will certainly be felt for many years to come.”

Dorrance said, “It’s an extraordinary honor to be given the award named for the very man who made my U.S. Women’s National Team dream come true.”

Dorrance is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and led the USA to its first Women’s World Cup title in 1991. Dorrance took over as the men’s soccer coach at Carolina in 1976 before taking on the women’s job simultaneously in 1979. Dorrance focused solely on the women’s program starting in 1988 and has led the Tar Heels to 21 NCAA titles out of 34 that have been held. Dorrance is an eight-time National Coach of the Year and nine-time ACC Coach of the Year. He is the winningest coach in college soccer history and 19 different Tar Heels have been named National Player of the Year during his tenure.

The award is named for Werner Fricker who served as U.S. Soccer President from 1984 to 1990 and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992.


UNC Women’s Soccer Game Moved

The UNC women’s soccer team will host Boston College on Friday afternoon at 3 PM.  The Tar Heels were originally scheduled to play at 7 PM, but the decision was made to move the game up due to heavy rain.

Cedar Falls Park, which is located at 501 Weaver Dairy Road in Chapel Hill, will be the new location of the game.

The top-ranked Tar Heels are 10-0-1 for the season overall and 3-0-0 in ACC play.  The Boston College Eagles are also undefeated in the ACC at 2-0-0.  Overall, the Eagles have a record of 8-3-1.  The game will be the first match-up between the two teams since UNC defeated Boston College 1-0 in the 2013 ACC Tournament quarterfinals in Chapel Hill.

Cedar Falls Park has no permanent seating, so fans should be aware of that if they plan on attending the game.

The Tar Heels became the number one team in the country when the new NCAA poll was released on Tuesday.  The UNC women knocked off Wake Forest on Sunday, 1-0.

The National Weather Service expects 2-4 inches of rain to fall in the Chapel Hill area by Sunday.  That includes steady rain on Friday and Saturday with spottier rain on Sunday – both from Joaquin and from another system that’s also threatening North Carolina.  Hurricane Joaquin may lead to more rain later in the weekend and into Monday.

Four inches of rain isn’t as much as other parts of the state are expecting to receive, but it’s still more than enough to create the threat of flash floods, downed trees, and other dangers. Orange County is under a flash flood watch from now through 8:00 Sunday evening. Orange County Commissioners declared a state of emergency on Thursday night, following Governor Pat McCrory’s decision to declare a state of emergency for the entire state earlier in the day.