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The Daily Tar Heel

SportsSaturday - DePlatchett Fills In Admirably

Branam, a freshman All-American last season, left for Australia on Sept. 10 as an alternate goalkeeper for the U.S. Olympic soccer team. Her departure left North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance with DePlatchett as his Plan B.

DePlatchett was tabbed UNC's starter for a stretch of seven games in the heart of the Tar Heels' schedule, which included perennial powers Penn State and Duke, along with an upstart in top-10 Clemson.

Before the season started, those games looked like they could break UNC's season with Branam not able to tend the Tar Heel nets.

"She's one of the best goalkeepers I've ever seen," Dorrance said before the season. "She is just special. It's going to be a tough stretch for us."

Or not.

DePlatchett, a junior, rattled off wins in six of those games, the lone loss to No. 5 Clemson. She recorded shutouts in five of them and now ranks in the top 10 nationally with a 0.46 goals-against average.

"I have all the confidence in the world in her," junior defender Danielle Borgman said. "The only thing that I wish she would have is more confidence in herself. She's got to realize she's such a great player."

Indeed, DePlatchett played somewhat tentatively earlier in the season. But as she's gained experience she's become more aggressive, making Branam-esque charges off her goal line to sweep up for the defense.

It's not unusual to see DePlatchett squash an opponent rush by charging 15 yards from the top of the penalty area to clear away a dangerous loose ball. Branam no longer corners the market on suicidal goaltending tactics.

"In our system we're not going to give up too many shots, but the goalkeeper has to be able to come out well on balls that are knocked through," Dorrance said. "(DePlatchett) has exuded confidence."

DePlatchett, who tested at the top of team in the pre-season fitness tests, seems to have found the bravado she previously lacked. However, she'd rather share her success with her teammates in the defense.

"I know that everyone in the back, whenever anyone does anything well, everyone's really supportive," DePlatchett said. "I have a lot of confidence in our backs, and I feel really good about it."

Branam was supposed to make her comeback Wednesday night at N.C. State, but she had to miss that game because of personal reasons.

So DePlatchett simply led the team to a 3-0 win.

"She's on top of her game right now," Dorrance said. "I'm really proud of her."

Yet, Branam, silver medal in hand, will be between the pipes when she returns to the team.

But DePlatchett's emergence gives UNC both a Plan A and a Plan 1A.

"Kristin or Branam - either one," senior defender Julia Marslender said. "We feel 100-percent confidence in both of them."

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