Can it be that Carolina upset Duke in women’s soccer?

Anson Dorrance’s Tar Heels earned their first ACC championship since 2009 over the weekend with 1-0 victories over N.C. State and Duke. The fact that it was eight years between ACC titles, ironically, is a tribute to Dorrance – who is responsible for building the women’s sport on the college level.

To underscore that point, Duke went undefeated in the ACC regular season for the first time in women’s soccer before losing to Carolina in the title game. The Blue Devils earned the third of four No. 1 seeds for the NCAA tournament that begins this weekend. The Tar Heels, who lost two games this season, have been a perennial No. 1 seed through the years and are the second No. 1 this year after winning the ACC championship.

The fact that Carolina has won two of its 21 national titles since it last won the ACC regular season or ACC tournament is testament to the monster Dorrance has created right here closer to home. Of course, any bad publicity from the ongoing NCAA investigation over the last seven years has hurt recruiting in every sport at UNC, including women’s soccer.

Dorrance’s teams and program are as good as ever, as strong as ever. The competition is just better because thousands more young girls are playing sports and a certain percentage of them are growing up to be elite stars and major college recruits.

The coaching is also better, some of it budding from Dorrance’s own tree. Former UNC star and 1999 World Cup player Carla Overbeck has been a Duke assistant since 1992 and her boss, Robbie Church, was named ACC Coach of the Year for having that undefeated regular season.

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are in different quadrants and open NCAA play this weekend on their home or home-away-from home pitches. While the new Fetzer Field remains under construction, Carolina plays host to High Point at Wake Med Soccer Park on Saturday at 1 p.m. Duke entertains UNC-Greensboro Saturday night in Durham.

Watching UNC women play, you see the same combination of skill and power in the Tar Heels of 2017. The matches are closer and more contested. Carolina won ACC crowns in women’s soccer and field hockey Sunday by identical 1-0 scores, giving Tar Heel teams 267 ACC titles. Next closest is Virginia with 130.