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The Daily Tar Heel

Rematch Ignites Hungry Tar Heels

It's motivation.

Not that the North Carolina women's soccer team is OK with a defeat, especially as UNC heads into the Final Four, where every game could mean advancing the team's season or ending it.

Losing is the last thing UNC wants, especially after dropping a regular season game to N.C. State, a program that in its history had never defeated the Tar Heels.

UNC remembers that.

And that could be the difference this year. Last season, there was no losing experience for North Carolina to draw upon for extra motivation because the team won every game. When it came, it came too late. A recalled UNC goal, plus a quick Santa Clara foot, made the 2001 NCAA final a learning, but 1-0 losing experience for the Tar Heels.

Friday, UNC has a shot at redemption.

The North Carolina women's soccer team will face Santa Clara at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. ESPN2 will televise the game on tape delay starting at 6 p.m.

The Broncos come into the match with a 19-4-1 record, while the Tar Heels' record is 21-1-4.

Also, both teams come into the competition a bit younger than last year. UNC's roster indicates only three seniors, while Santa Clara claims five.

In addition, the teams were robbed of star starting players for a good portion of their seasons. Individual involvements with the national team rendered UNC without Catherine Reddick and Santa Clara sans Aly Wagner.

Both Reddick and Wagner are expected to play Friday and will add to the dynamic of the matchup.

"We've had a lot of great matches against North Carolina in our history," said Santa Clara coach Jerry Smith, after the Broncos' 3-1 quarterfinal win against Michigan. "We've been fortunate to win our last two matches against (UNC). North Carolina is still the program to beat. They're not the number one seed, but everybody knows they're the team to beat."

Despite the Tar Heels' traditionally intimidating status, senior Leslie Gaston said they don't walk in expecting to win.

"Ultimately we have a goal, and our goal is to win the national championship but by no means is it guaranteed that we're going to be in the Final Four," Gaston said. "I think with the work ethic, that competitive spirit in our practices, everything we do prepares us for getting there. And every year the competition gets better and better. Last year we went an entire season undefeated and lost in the national championship. We can't take anything for granted."

But with 17 national championships, plus 21 consecutive trips to the final four, on paper it seems that UNC has good reason to be confident.

North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance said it's important for UNC to strike a balance between confidence and respect.

"We have to respect everyone, and we do. We understand how fragile winning is and that helps us take care of it to an extent. ... In every pre-NCAA tournament, I predict an upset in every single round, and I just hope that it's not us."

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