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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels' Depth Key For Season

Already-seasoned roster adds talent

The North Carolina women's soccer team might have the fewest seniors in its program's history, but the Tar Heels' national prowess is not in jeopardy. Nine returning starters will anchor the team, with several prized freshman spicing up the roster.

"We're going to have more depth this year than in most seasons," said coach Anson Dorrance. "We actually think we can go 18 to 20 deep in our roster and that's a wonderful luxury."

Dorrance will soon test that theory.

UNC (24-1-1, 7-0 in 2001) will play an exhibition game against Notre Dame (17-3-1 in 2001) in Fort Wayne, Ind., Friday night. The teams last met in the 2000 NCAA semifinals. The Tar Heels toppled the Fighting Irish 2-1 and advanced to win the national title.

"Notre Dame is one of the top traditions in the country so playing against them in the preseason game is going to be great for us," Dorrance said.

Three seniors -- forward Susan Bush, defender Leslie Gaston and goalkeeper Jenni Branam -- are expected to take the helm and motivate their younger teammates to help steer the team.

Sara Randolph started in the midfield opposite All-American Jena Kleugel. Now with Kleugel gone, the sophomore said the midfield will focus on communication.

"It just means the rest of us have had to step up and take more of a leadership role," Randolph said.

But experience won't be a problem for the defensive third. The experienced unit of Catherine Reddick, Carmen Watley and Gaston will be able to look past melding in the backfield and experiment with new defensive tactics.

"And because we're trying different things and taking more risks, we're going to be even more dangerous than we've ever been," Reddick said.

UNC added nine freshmen, including five ranked nationally. Four of those are currently playing on the U.S. Under-19 National Team and aren't expected to return until three games into the season.

"I think this team has great chemistry this year," Randolph said. "I think (the freshmen) have great potential."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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