Dorrance admires team character
Tar Heels show heart in national championship victory
SAN DIEGO -- Of all the 21 NCAA Championships that North Carolina Women’s Soccer Coach Anson Dorrance has won, the one his team claimed Sunday might be the most impressive and satisfying.
After a two-year drought, the Tar Heels advanced to the College Cup, but were the lowest-ranked and lowest-seeded of the four semifinalists. North Carolina was ranked 13th in the country and earned a second seed, while Penn State, Stanford and Florida State were all top seeds.
“The classic question is does it ever get old and no, it was a lot of fun for me,” Dorrance said of his recent championship and 34th year as head coach. “I really enjoyed the quality of kids I had. Not only are they great players, but they are great human beings.”
Dorrance previously held a near monopoly on college soccer, winning 16 championships in 19 years up to 2000, but it took 12 years to win five more.
“It’s harder, the opponents are better,” Dorrance said. “The coaches are continuing to evolve and become more sophisticated. It’s a longer tournament. Single-game eliminations are terrifying. Single-game eliminations anyone can lose, certainly we could have.”
Though the team was not a national contender, Dorrance never doubted this team’s character.
“I think we overachieved,” Dorrance said. “I thought our NCAA seed was too high. I thought getting second was a great break. A lot of other teams could have been here in our place.”
Getting to the College Cup was certainly not easy. UNC nearly lost its first two games of the tournament. In its opener, No. 9 Baylor took them through two overtimes before North Carolina won on penalty kicks. In the second-round game, the Tar Heels needed double overtime, getting past No. 1-seeded BYU when Crystal Dunn knocked in the game winner.
In the semifinal game, the team faced No. 1-seeded Stanford and ended regulation scoreless. Kealia Ohai scored in the second overtime to advance the team to the finals against Penn State.
The team had to turn around after a day’s rest and play a strong Penn State team, the third No. 1-seed in as many games.
Dunn, one of the team’s stars, said they never thought of themselves as underdogs.
“There are so many great teams out there and I think our job was to focus on what we had to do and not who the team was we were playing,” Dunn said. “Yeah we were only the second seed and for us it was motivation to be playing these No. 1-seeded teams but we had to focus on us. We just wanted to come out stronger than the team we played, that was our game.”