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Women's soccer shorthanded against Duke

Nikki Washington is among four UNC women’s soccer players who will be absent tonight versus Duke. DTH/Andrew Dye
Nikki Washington is among four UNC women’s soccer players who will be absent tonight versus Duke. DTH/Andrew Dye

North Carolina women’s soccer players Meghan Klingenberg and Amanda Tucker entered Wednesday’s practice at Fetzer Field costumed as Blue Devils in preparation for tonight’s match against Duke.

While Klingenberg and Tucker will inevitably trade their royal blue ensembles and pitchforks for Carolina blue jerseys, the Tar Heels will still be shorthanded for the rivalry game.

Starters Tobin Heath, Ashlyn Harris and Nikki Washington, along with reserve Lucy Bronze, will miss UNC’s first ACC game of the season.

“Obviously, we’re not going to be as good with players like that missing, but I have confidence in my reserve players,” coach Anson Dorrance said. “I look at this as giving my young players more experience early.”

Heath and Harris are missing both the Duke game and Sunday’s match against Wake Forest due to practice commitments with the U.S. national team.

UNC will have to fill the void left by Heath, a senior midfielder who has logged the most minutes of any Tar Heel on offense. Harris has started all eight games in goal for UNC and has allowed only one goal all year.

“I feel like everyone has to step up equally,” senior defender Kristi Eveland said. “I think we have to talk more. It’ll be a good way of seeing how our team can come together when some of our stars aren’t here.”

Across the pond, Bronze is competing in European qualifying for the under-20 England national team. Bronze, a freshman defender from England, has started in just one game this season. Still, she’s a key reserve on Dorrance’s squad and is expected to return for Sunday’s match.

Washington’s absence has already been felt by the team. The senior forward had two goals and three assists on the season before tearing her ACL against Louisiana State last Friday.

A four-year starter, Washington’s career at UNC is done after suffering the injury six games into the year.

“She’s one of the best flank midfielders I’ve ever coached,” Dorrance said following the LSU game.

“We’re not running up the white flag, but we’re not going to replace her. You just can’t replace a player of that caliber.”

In UNC’s next match against Auburn, Dorrance started Brittani Bartok in Washington’s place, substituting Bartok with freshman Alyssa Rich in both halves of the game.

Despite having holes at three starting positions, Dorrance said the UNC team that takes the field tonight will undoubtedly be competitive.

“That’s why we recruit deep rosters and try to play a lot of people,” Dorrance said. “We’re certainly at a disadvantage, but it won’t be overwhelming."

Attend the game
Time: 7 p.m. today
Location: Fetzer Field
Info: www.tarheelblue.com

Contact the Sports Editorat sports@unc.edu.

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