Twelve straight. Twelve. In their last twelve matches, Anson Dorrance’s Tar Heels are unbeaten and untied. To hear that UNC Women’s Soccer are on a dominant run extending into the postseason may come as little surprise to veteran Tar Heel fans. But consider this: the last Carolina team to go on such a run was the 2006 National Championship squad. That team finished 27-1 and featured players named O’Reilly, Heath, Engen, Averbuch, and Harris. Fans of the USWNT might have heard of them.
That should give you an idea of the kind of run the #4 Tar Heels (17-2-1) are on. Carolina has not lost or tied this year since a pair on losses to Stanford and Santa Clara (currently the #1 and #5 teams in the country) on a single brutal weekend trip to the Bay area in early September. The Tar Heels plowed through their ACC regular season schedule, going 10-0-0 (the last team to do so was the ‘06 squad) and only conceding 3 goals against conference foes.
That dominance has continued into the ACC Tournament, where Carolina has won their first two games, defeating Virginia Tech 2-0 and Clemson 1-0 just this Friday. The Tar Heels will face #7 Florida State to try and complete a clean sweep of the ACC. The Tar Heels beat the Seminoles in their home opener in Tallahassee 1-0 back in September.
For their play this year, six Tar Heels were named to the All-ACC team this week. Alessia Russo, the goal-scoring sophomore forward from Kent, England was named first team and Offensive Player of the Year. She has tallied six goals and four assists, despite missing six games. Joining her on the first team are midfielders Taylor Otto and Brianna Pinto and defender Emily Fox. Pinto was also named to the All-Freshman team. Defender Julia Ashley was named to second team and midfielder Dorian Bailey third team. All three of UNC’s starting midfielders made All-Conference.
For taking his team through the ACC unbeaten and untied, Anson Dorrance was named ACC Coach of the Year for the 11th time. Dorrance, you might have heard, has had some pretty good teams at UNC in the past. But he has been hunting for his 23rd national championship for six years now, the longest wait in Carolina’s storied history. The Heels haven’t won it all since Dunn and Ohai led the way in 2012.
Last year’s heartbreaking ending was a reminder of just how much parity there is now in women’s soccer. Fifth-year seniors have passed through Chapel Hill without winning the final game of the season, something that has never happened before. A five year wait for a title is nothing to 99.9% of the soccer world, but when you play for Anson Dorrance, it’s an eternity. But, with a loaded squad playing dominant soccer at just the right time, it may well be that the waiting will end here.
The Tar Heels will kick off against the Seminoles at 12 pm ET on Sunday at WakeMed Park in Cary. The game will be shown on ESPNU.