This is Darcy McFarlane. A soccer player, yes. A leader and a scholar? Most definitely. And a complete embodiment of what her school expects from a champion.
McFarlane was a multifaceted individual from the start.
“Very athletic,” said her father Craig.
“That’s an understatement ...” her mother Marilou said. “You definitely had to keep an eye on her. She was always very energetic, very funny. She just had a real zest for life from the beginning.”
Life always led McFarlane to explore different things. She played the role of Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. She won a community service award in middle school.
Before her senior year in high school, she packed up and drove herself to San Francisco for an internship with Twitter’s research and design branch. A year later, she took a much longer trip to the opposite coast.
It was the academics. The clubs. The people. And yes, the soccer team. UNC was the culmination of all of her hard work thus far. It was the alma mater of her grandparents, two of her aunts, her mother — who ran cross-country for the Tar Heels — and, of course, her sister.
“It still feels a little bit like a fantasy,” Marilou said. “You just can’t believe that it all came together.”
McFarlane could not decide what she wanted to excel in when she got to UNC, so she picked everything.
“The way she does it all is like a myth,” said teammate Hanna Gardner.
She has been a representative for the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor, organized student-athlete community service projects through Carolina Outreach and has booked a spot nearly every semester on the Dean’s List.
“She’s a scholar and just a committed academic,” said Dorrance. “She wants to impact and change the world.”
She has been a varsity athlete for the most successful program in the history of women’s soccer, and perhaps all of college athletics. She has used her role as an athlete to fulfill her sense of service.
“I think it’s really cool to see the impact student-athletes can have on people,” McFarlane said. “I remember what it was like to be a little kid and look up to college athletes, even though we aren’t anything special.”
Yet there does seem to be something special about McFarlane. And the team needs her now more than ever.
This past week, the Tar Heels were coming off of a historic blowout — losing 3-0 to Southern California in only the fourth multi-goal loss for the Tar Heels since 1985.
Dejected at first, McFarlane admitted she felt the weight of the North Carolina dynasty. If she does not lead this team to a title, she’ll be a part of the only four-year class in UNC women’s soccer history not to win it all.
But then, in the course of a conversation with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp, she started focusing on just how good her team could be.
“She went through this reasoning process and rebuilding confidence,” said Crisp, who has followed the program for decades.
“And then she didn’t leave it at that. She went and took that to other people, to pass it on.”
During her junior year, in a game at Florida State, McFarlane took a tumble. Her parents were watching the game on a live stream from California.
“From how much soccer we’ve watched, we saw how she went down,” Craig said. “And intuitively knew that she had a ...”
“A big injury,” said Marilou.
An ACL tear. A colossal injury like that isn’t rare in soccer. Yet it can be devastating.
But she rebounded quickly.
After redoubling her commitments outside of soccer, McFarlane still made time to be a strong force for the team.
“She really focused on the team and how to impact this team, even though she wasn’t doing it on the field,” Gardner said.
Those close to her said the most astounding part was how quickly she returned. She attacked her rehab, and after a limited preseason, she was ready for her final season.
“Honestly, I think she may be better than she was before,” Gardner said.
That’s just the way McFarlane is. She has too much to do to be kept down. Too many people counting on her.
“She steps up and she serves and she helps and she cares,” Crisp said. “And that matters.”
McFarlane is a senior now, and her team faces N.C. State tonight in the final conference opener of her career. She’s almost done with her time at the school that has always had a hold on her heart — but this school will not forget her. She gave more to this campus than it ever could have given to her.
She has not won a national title, but she has excelled, learned and contributed.
Here is a title she has earned: This is Darcy McFarlane, and she is a champion.