Project 28: Women's Soccer vs. Florida
Welcome to the first installment of what we're calling Project 28. With this series, Tar Heel Monthly will take you to one event in each Carolina sport during the 2012-13 athletic year. We'll give you the details on what it's like to see your favorite Tar Heels in action with the hope that you too may be inspired to come lend your support.
We start things off with women's soccer, who took on Florida Friday night in the first home event of the athletic year.
Home of the Tar Heels
Carolina's soccer and lacrosse teams call Fetzer Field home. If you watched the Olympics, you know that Fetzer, which has been home to such soccer luminaries as Mia Hamm, Tobin Heath and Heather O'Reilly, is the cradle of women's soccer. It's nestled behind Carmichael Auditorium and is easily reachable via South Road. Fans may park and walk from just about anywhere on campus, though if you can find a space at the School of Government or the Cobb Deck, those are your best bets.
The 21-time national champions are under the direction of the only head coach they've ever known, Anson Dorrance, now in his 34th season. Friday's game was Dorrance's 800th at the school. This Carolina team is beginning the season short-handed, as five players are currently with the U20 or U17 National teams. Bryane Heaberlin, Kealia Ohai and preseason All-America Crystal Dunn are representing the United States at the U20 World Cup in Japan. Katie Bowen is there representing New Zealand. Freshman Summer Green is in training camp with the U17 National team. The U20 players should be back by September 13. Green will rejoin the Tar Heels for games from August 31- September 9 before departing for international competition. She is expected to be back for good by October 18, when the Tar Heels take on Duke in Durham. Carolina also lost defender Megan Brigman to a fractured leg in the season opener at Portland. Brigman, who led the team in minutes in 2010 and 2011, will be out a minimum four weeks. Still, the Tar Heels have a boatload of talent in veterans like Amber Brooks, Alyssa Rich, Ranee Premji and Adelaide Gay. Freshmen Hanna Gardner and Reilly Parker have earned playing time in the preseason and are seizing opportunities in the absence of the national team players.
It was a Top 20 matchup Friday night, as the #20 Gators came in to face the #19 Tar Heels. Both teams entered the match 0-1. It was a back and forth affair, with both teams getting chances early. Carolina's Bianca Gray made Gators goalie Taylor Burke go to work early with a shot in the opening seconds. Gray and Brooks led the way offensively, with seven shots between them, while Florida midfielder Erika Tymrak put four of her own in the scoresheet. Burke made five saves for the Gators, while the combination of Gay and Anna Sieloff in goal for the Tar Heels kept the sheet clean. This was hard-fought soccer, with plenty of excitement. After a scoreless 90 minutes, Brooks put a shot off the crossbar in the second minute of overtime. Carolina's Maria Lubrano appeared to score in the 100th minute but was called offside. After two overtimes, the final score was 0-0. Nevertheless, Dorrance was pleased with the effort. The Tar Heels had played Florida in the spring exhibition season and lost by two goals, so he saw improvement.
The listed attendance for Carolina's home opener was 4,125, and a great majority stayed for the entire 110 minutes of game action. Carolina Fever was on hand for the year's first event, and the Carolina pep band provided the game's soundtrack.
"One of the biggest appeals is the landscape," said Alex Collette, a senior from Kernersville and Game Day Chair for Carolina Fever. "We've got a beautiful field that's well-maintained, it's right here in the heart of campus; you can see Teague and Carmichael. You can see the practice football field and the track. I think that gets you in the spirit for soccer. Coming out here on a Friday night, especially when you've got good weather like this, there's nowhere I'd rather be than outside cheering for Carolina." Collette said Fever gets a good turnout for the first events of the year, especially among freshmen, some attending their first-ever Carolina event. "It's nice to have that first Friday after classes to unwind and cheer on the Heels."
"Tremendous crowd," Dorrance said. "Obviously, having the band here was cool. Fever is wonderful. The way Fever supports us is really cool. We have a lot of top recruits here watching the game and I don't think the could have come to a game with a better atmosphere and seen a more exciting game. I don't think this is a game we're going to frame in the reels of brilliant soccer, but there were some fine moments. A lot of girls just played their hearts out. Both teams. I think they saw a wonderful, exciting spectacle."
"It was great," Amber Brooks said. "I love seeing Carolina Fever. The first game usually gets the most fans, and they were great out there supporting us and cheering for us. It was awesome."
Bet You Didn't Know
Carolina's players wore GPS units during the game to track how far they traveled. "My prediction is that (Ranee) Premji ran her little legs off," Dorrance said.
Carolina travels to Notre Dame for the Notre Dame adidas Invitational and will take on Connecticut and the host Irish on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The Tar Heels then will play two in Durham on September 7th and 9th against Marquette and San Diego before beginning ACC play. They return to Fetzer on Thursday, September 20 for a match with Virginia Tech.