The summer wait is over and sporting season is back in Chapel Hill! The first regular season match of the 2017-18 year will begin on Thursday, when the UNC Women’s Soccer team kicks off 2018 in the Nike Classic. A second match is scheduled for Sunday. With the renovations of Fetzer Field falling behind schedule, the matches will take place at Finley South Field in Chapel Hill.
The Heels start the season ranked #6 in the Nation. They are coming off a strong year in which they won the ACC Tournament with a thrilling win over arch rival Duke, before being upset by Princeton in the Sweet 16. They are led by two Herman Trophy Watch candidates: Senior defender Julia Ashley, so long the rock of Anson Dorrance’s defense, and Sophomore striker Alessia Russo, who won ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP in her freshman season.
Carolina will open the Classic against the Fighting Illini of Illinois in a match that should prove to be little more than a tune up: The Illini finished 5-14 last year and are only returning five seniors to the roster. They are projected to finish 12th in the Big Ten by early polls.
The second matchup should prove much more challenging: the #23 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are coming of a terrific season that saw them win their first ever outright Big Ten Championship and are expected to threaten for it again this year. They are led by Seniors Arden Holden and Sarah Roberts. How UNC fares against an experienced and confident team early in the season will be telling as to where exactly this UNC is at to start off what should be yet another promising season.
UNC vs Illinois will be at 5pm on Thursday, Aug. 16th, and UNC vs. OSU will be 4 pm on Sunday, Aug. 19th. Both games are available on ACC Network Extra.