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UNC Looks Forward to a Brutal Season of Women's Soccer

I'm going to start with this:

That's Indi Cowie, an incoming freshman who enrolled at UNC in January, in the video that won her the FIFA Street vs. Street Contest, as judged by Leo Messi, captain of the Argentinian national team. And as all, she has a website, a Twitter account, and a profile in the New York Times when she was sixteen. And she won't be the most exciting thing about this year's team, as she's redshirting with a torn ACL.

Last season ended in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in sudden-death penalty kicks to UCF. That, coupled with a first round exit from the ACC tournament, resulted in the worst post-season results in Carolina's 33-year history. And yet the end result is one of the stronger teams in recent memory. The Tar Heels return all but one starter, and are bringing in three freshman out of a class of 14 currently on under-20 national teams. In fact, that's going to be a big early problem for this team, managing without those three and two returning players that will be off at the U20 World Cup for a month-and-a-half beginning in August.

That's a shame, because UNC's early schedule is brutal. They have road games against perennial powers Portland and Notre Dame, face last year's tournament teams Marquette and San Diego in Durham, and play a fifth tournament team at home against Florida all before the Heels are at full strength. Then they face and ACC schedule that includes road trips against Virginia (returning 7 starters from an NCAA quarterfinal team) and Duke (returning all 11 starters from the NCAA runners-up and best team in Blue Devil history). There's also Wake, with every starter back from last year's semifinal team, and Florida State, returning seven from last season's ACC Championship team.

Still, with all that and the strange ACC Tournament format initiated last season — first round games are played at home the week before the res of the tournament — I like Carolina's chances. No school has as many players on national teams as the Heels do, and the team has a history of bouncing back from disappointing seasons with championships. In fact, to not bring home the trophy this year would be the longest drought in UNC's history.

I'm going to try to cover women's soccer a little more this year, within the limitations of what I can do from out of state. This looks to be an excellent year for them, and if the ACC as a whole doesn't just own the NCAA tournament, it'll be a shock indeed.