What is it about sports that use nets around here?
Two more national champions and a third team among the last four standing – that’s the short of it for soccer and field hockey in the fall of 2009.
Stanford was unbeaten and had allowed just two goals in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, but junior Jessica McDonald took a cross from senior Casey Nogueira and struck early in the championship game. Her goal in the third minute of the game was enough, and the Tar Heels made it an even 20 NCAA titles.
UNC’s field hockey team won its sixth national championship with a dramatic score to beat Maryland in the final seconds, and the men’s soccer team made it to the College Cup before losing to Akron in the semifinals.
The women’s soccer team outshot Stanford 19-9.
The team’s nine seniors won this one in the same Aggie Stadium in which they played their first game back in 2006 – a loss to Texas A&M. They will graduate with three national championship rings and a 94-9-4 record. The Heels finished 2009 at 23-3-1 after losing three in a five-game stretch in October.
With the 1-0 victory over Stanford, Coach Anson Dorrance ’74 became the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history by coaching teams to a 20th NCAA title in a single sport.
Those titles with Dorrance as coach exceed the 19 for UCLA’s Al Scates in men’s volleyball (1970-2006) and the 19 for John McDonnell of Arkansas in men’s indoor track and field (1984-2006). A total of 22 coaches in NCAA history have led teams to win 10 or more NCAA titles in a single sport. Five of those coaches are still active, including Dorrance and Scates.
“What Anson has accomplished on the soccer field is amazing,” said Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66. “Just as important is the strong bond his players have for him, the soccer program and the University.”
“Anson Dorrance is a remarkable coach who continues to set the bar in terms of championships,” said ACC Commissioner John D. Swofford ’71, who served as UNC’s athletics director when teams coached by Dorrance won 12 of the 20 NCAA titles between 1982 and 1996. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for Anson and The University of North Carolina. All of us in the Atlantic Coast Conference congratulate him.”
Dorrance also is tied for the third-longest streak of consecutive team titles in NCAA history, with nine from 1986 to 1994. Only McDonnell of Arkansas in men’s indoor track and field (1984-93) and Pat Henry of LSU in women’s outdoor track and field (1988-97), with 10 championships each, have coached teams to win more in a row.
Tar Heel men’s basketball coach Roy Williams ’72, who coached teams to NCAA titles in 2005 and 2009, said, “Anson’s accomplishments are incredible and will never be matched. These championships though are only a part of his greatness. The standards he sets for each team and each staff every year keeps them from becoming complacent. He makes the new season challenging again, and I don’t think he will change. He is a credit to our school and our coaching profession, and I truly admire him.”
Dorrance offered the familiar reminder that there’s no magic in Carolina’s dominance of collegiate soccer – just hard work.
“Our philosophy isn’t horribly profound; it’s just basically a work ethic,” he said. “If you’re going to be on the field with the Tar Heels, you’re going to put your hard hat on and go to work. You’re going to sprint to close down people, make it difficult for the other team to play any kind of game.”
The field hockey team made the most of its 14th trip to the Final Four, winning on senior captain Danielle Forword’s penalty corner with 11.7 seconds left in the title game. Maryland was undefeated and had beaten the Heels in October – one of only two losses against 21 wins.
Maryland scored to take a 2-1 lead with 7:49 left, and Coach Karen Shelton took a risk: She pulled goaltender Jackie Kintzer in favor of an extra fielder. Three minutes later, that proved a good decision when the Heels tied it up.
It was the second national title in three years for UNC.
The men’s soccer team played unbeaten and top-seeded Akron to a scoreless tie in the semifinal game nearby in Cary. But Akron won it on a 5-4 advantage in penalty kicks. It was the Heels’ third appearance in soccer’s Final Four, which includes a national championship in 2001. UNC finished the season 16-2-4.