We have officially reached college fall sports season as tonight, one North Carolina Tar Heels team will kick off their new season. While several teams have been playing exhibition games in recent weeks, UNC women’s soccer will play one that counts tonight when they host Tennessee at Dorrance Field. With the Heels kicking off their new season tonight, let’s preview what 2022 may have in store for them.
It’s been a little while now since UNC has been the year in and year out, most dominant team in women’s college soccer, with their last national title coming in 2012. Despite that, they’ve still been one of the best programs in the sport since, with a number of close calls. They’ve made the College Cup national semifinals in four of the last six seasons, but just haven’t managed to seal the deal in any of those trips.
However, one of the two years that saw them knocked out earlier than the final four was last year. After a 12-2-3 regular season, they got a #2 seed in the 64-team NCAA Tournament, but were upset by South Carolina in the first round. They seemed to have the potential for another deep run, having battled eventual national champion Florida State to a 2-2 tie during the regular season, but for whatever reason, things didn’t come together for a NCAAT run.
As for this season, the Tar Heels are expected to contend again, ranking 10th in the preseason top 25. They were picked third in an ACC preseason poll behind Duke and Virginia, but it should be a stacked conference in general, as the difference between Duke and fourth placed Florida State was just a few ranking points. Six ACC teams featured in the entirety of the top 25.
Players to watch for UNC this year include Sam Meza and Maycee Bell, who were both included on the “Players to Watch” list by United Soccer Coaches for the 2022 season. In general, the Tar Heels will return the vast majority of their goals from last season. That includes Emily Colton, Emily Murphy, and Avery Patterson, who led the team with seven, five, and five each.
One position that the Tar Heels will definitely have to replace is goalkeeper, with last year’s starter, Claudia Dickey, now in the NWSL. In a preseason Q&A, Anson Dorrance didn’t give too much away on who of the three goalkeepers on the roster would play. Playing time has also been pretty evenly split in the exhibition games as well.
While the games won’t count, UNC has put in some solid performances in their exhibition games. They beat VCU 5-0 in one, but the other is the more notable performance. They also beat BYU 2-0 at Dorrance Field over the weekend. The Cougars are going into the season as the #3 team in the preseason top 25 rankings, coming off a season where they were the national runners-up.
Best of luck to the Tar Heels as they try to add to the historic 21 NCAA Tournament titles!