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The Daily Tar Heel

Goalies Help NCAA Title Run

Wisps of golden hair escape from Kristin DePlatchett's blond ponytail and frame her cherubic face. The senior is known for her work ethic, her almost 30-inch vertical jump and her academic prowess.

"Kristin is the mold for a scholar-athlete," said North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance. "She is a cerebral, disciplined, compassionate person."

While DePlatchett strives to improve her soccer savvy, Jenni Branam brings raw talent and a gritty attitude to the Tar Heel squad. Her aggressive nature at times strikes fear into even her own teammates. Branam's brute strength is evident in her 5-foot-7 frame, making her opponents think twice when she charges out of the goal box to blast a ball down the field.

"Jenni is so tough," defender Leslie Gaston said. "She's fearless. She will come out for something when she knows she's going to get nailed in the process."

The two North Carolina goalkeepers are definitely different, yet when it comes to shutting down opposing team's offenses, their success is strikingly similar.

Branam, a junior, has started in goal for the Tar Heels since her freshman year. DePlachett, who left high school a year early to come to UNC, has filled the role of backup for most of her collegiate career.

But in this year's postseason, the two have switched roles.

DePlatchett will finally get her chance to start in a NCAA Tournament game tonight when the Tar Heels face UNC-Greensboro in their first round game at 5:30 p.m. at Fetzer Field.

"I hoped I would be (starting)," DePlatchett said. "In your mind you always have to prepare yourself, so that's what I did. It's a lot easier to start than to come in during the game."

Branam, who tweaked her knee when UNC played Duke on Oct. 2 and hasn't fully recovered, will slide into the backup position. Although Branam has started seven of the Tar Heels' games this season -- and every postseason game since her freshman year -- UNC's defense said that the transition has been almost seamless.

"Because (DePlatchett) has less experience, she is a little more hesitant about coming out," defender Danielle Borgman said. "She's more of a player that lets the play come to her. Jenni likes to go out after things. She's also a lot louder. But they both know what's supposed to happen, and they get it done."

And so the record shows. The unbeaten Tar Heels have shut out 13 teams this season while alternating the two goalies. Not one of UNC's three ACC Tournament opponents scored on DePlatchett, which is a statistic only two other goalkeepers in Tar Heel history can claim.

Dorrance said he hopes he doesn't have to play Branam in the postseason, at least not until her knee is fully healed.

"It's a risk sending her out there," Dorrance said. "If she gets hit the wrong way, she's done for the season. But no matter who is on the field, I have the utmost confidence in them."

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