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Mullinix Carries Success Beyond Years at UNC

She's also likely to jump up and touch the cross bar just before the first whistle blows.

It's little superstitions like that that keep Mullinix on point. But with her skills, she seems like the last person to need to cling to luck, or anything else.

Mullinix, who played on two national championship teams at North Carolina and currently plays for the Washington Freedom, was one of 23 UNC women's soccer players named to the list of the 50 greatest ACC women's soccer players of all time.

But Mullinix's success didn't start with UNC, and it certainly hasn't ended.

As a rising senior at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, she was sandwiched between sisters Melissa and Cindy -- both soccer standouts.

However it was Siri's goalkeeping that enticed UNC coach Anson Dorrance to extend to her the opportunity to join the Tar Heel squad a year early.

"Of course we were disappointed. When you think you're going to have a great player for four years, then you only have her for three," said Ragsdale coach Brien Braswell, who coached Mullinix and her teammates to two state championships. "That was a rare opportunity."

That opportunity is also one that Dorrance said he extended just one other time at UNC, to Mia Hamm.

"The thing we loved about Siri is she was a kid who came to our camp when she was young," Dorrance said. "As a North Carolinian, we saw this amazing athleticism that usually is hard for us to recruit in-state and find national-caliber athletes. But she was one of the first, so we were thrilled about her decision to come here and play here for us."

That was 1995, the same year the Tar Heels ended a nine-year national championship streak. Mullinix expected to redshirt that year but found playing time immediately, and in the following two years, UNC reclaimed its seat as No. 1.

In 1997, the final four was held in Greensboro, Mullinix's hometown. In addition to leading her team to the title, Mullinix was named NCAA Tournament Defensive MVP.

"It was interesting because rarely does a goalkeeper get any recognition here at Carolina," said UNC goalkeeping coach Chris Ducar.

Mullinix was named first-team All America in 1997 and then again in 1998, when the Tar Heels lost to Florida in the title match. Dorrance said she brought a new aspect to her role.

"What she revolutionized for us is she is very good with her feet," he said. "And she sort of put that aspect of goalkeeping on the map of the United States because she was so good with balls at her feet, and I think that's one of the reasons she was selected to lead the team in the goal."

Mullinix first picked up a pair of goalie gloves at about age 12, when she played on her father's classic team, the Greensboro Twisters. She had played soccer since she was 5 years old, but only competitively starting around the fourth grade.

"I would say that she's a very advanced player, but she's also a student of the game," said Steve Mullinix, Siri's father. "She understands the game technically and tactically, and that gives her an edge in building defenses and shutting down attacks."

And Mullinix has translated those skills onto both national and international stages. About two years ago, Mullinix set a U.S. women's national team record for the most shutouts in a year with 13.

Coming off a starting role on the U.S. women's national team that earned a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics, Mullinix was allocated to the Washington Freedom. Her 1.22 goals against average ranked fourth in WUSA this past summer.

"Anytime you have a goalkeeper who can keep you in the game or win games for you, that's a tremendous relief," said Freedom coach Jim Gabarra. "And she certainly does that."

And at 24, Mullinix already has etched her name in the record books despite some injuries, including a banged-up shoulder that required surgery. On June 1, she set a WUSA record by making 13 saves in a 0-0 draw against the Boston Breakers.

This offseason, Mullinix plans to marry Christopher Mahoney, an associate head coach of the men's tennis team at the University of Tennessee.

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But outside of those plans, Mullinix says she'll take the rest as it comes. For now, she says she's happy playing and being involved in the Freedom's numerous outreach programs. Whenever she decides to retire from playing, she said she can always fall back on her exercise and sports science degree from UNC.

"I plan to play a couple more years and at some point, if I have to get a job, I'll probably work in the administration of some professional sport. (Playing in WUSA) has been a great experience. It's something when you're growing up, even in college you couldn't say, 'I want to be a professional soccer player,' because it didn't exist back then. But now that it is around, that's incredible."

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