UNC and Duke have played each other 36 times in women’s soccer.  The most important regular season match ever will be the one they play on Thursday night at Fetzer Field.  Here’s why….For decades, the outcome wasn’t in doubt (UNC would win) nor the principal reason for the result (superior talent).   Both “givens” are no longer guaranteed.    

If Thursday’s game was at a neutral field, UNC would be the underdog.  Duke is ranked #3 in the nation (the Heels are #10), has four superlative scorers (Kelly Cobb, Kaitlyn Kerr, Laura Weinberg, and Mollie Pathman), and a standout goalie (Tara Campbell, who notched her tenth shutout of the season last week in a 1-0 road victory over #5 Boston College).  
Now, if 5,000 plus Carolina supporters show up – as they did for UNC’s stellar 2-1 overtime win against Notre Dame – the Heels may pull out a win thanks to the energy home crowds can create.  And Carolina, of course, is not without weapons: the most versatile player on the field will be clad in light blue (Crystal Dunn), as will the fastest (Meg Morris), and the most aggressive offensive threats (Courtney Jones and Kealia Ohai).   And while Duke has a strong coaching staff (led by Robbie Church and former Carolina standout Carla Overbeck), UNC has the architect of the greatest college sports dynasty in America (Anson Dorrance, who has coached Carolina to the national title 21 times).
UNC soccer’s stellar communications director Dave Lohse aptly called last season’s game, which Carolina won 5-3, a “barnburner”.  With the teams returning to Chapel Hill for the 2011 edition of the rivalry, I think the final score could very well be 2-1 as has been the case with all four games played at Fetzer since 2004.  I don’t know who will be on top but, if its the Blue Devils, it won’t be an upset.  
One thing I’m certain of is that the only way to follow the game if you are not there in person (which you should be!) is to tune into WCHL’s live broadcast at 7 p.m. on 1360AM or www.chapelboro.com.
In the meantime, let me know who you think is going to win and why in the comment section below.