The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, March 4, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's soccer to take on Hoosiers Friday

In its 32 back-to-back years of play in the NCAA tournament, the No. 1 seeded North Carolina women’s soccer team has faced countless opponents.

But Friday’s kickoff at Fetzer Field will prove to be a first for the Tar Heels, who have yet to battle Indiana in the postseason.

The NCAA selection show was routine for North Carolina, the only school in the nation to have qualified for every single NCAA tournament. However, the Hoosier locker room erupted when their at-large bid was revealed, Indiana’s fourth in program history. This enthusiasm translated to a 1-0 victory over DePaul in the first round.

However, senior Kealia Ohai believes that the Tar Heels are anything but complacent with their NCAA legacy, and will have no trouble matching the excitement of the Hoosiers when the initial whistle blows.

“My class has had a different route than most Carolina teams because our first two seasons we lost early in the tournament,” Ohai said.

“We came in as freshmen and thought, ‘This is Carolina, we’re just going to step into it and win,’ and that’s really not the case. It is so hard to win a national championship. It doesn’t matter if you’re North Carolina.”

Coach Anson Dorrancesaid morale in practice this week has been high, perhaps in correlation to the return of leading scorer senior Crystal Dunn.

Dunn, who was recently named a finalist for U.S. Youth Soccer Player of the Year, suffered a hamstring injury prior to UNC’s ACC semifinal match against Florida State, and her future seemed uncertain.

“She jumped into a little bit of practice Tuesday in the warm-up,” Dorrance said. “She is healing, but we have no idea when she can return to full competition.”

Sophomore defender Hanna Gardner confirmed that Dunn participated in a full practice Wednesday as well, but her playing status for Friday has yet to be determined.

With or without Dunn, the Tar Heels will have to adjust to a tactful Hoosier offense that is efficient on set plays and sideline usage.

“They seem dangerous going forward just with their variety of different balls,” Gardner said. “They had some through balls and some balls out wide that could be very dangerous. We definitely need to be aware of that, especially on the backline, but we mostly need to focus on ourselves.”

North Carolina’s decisive 4-0 win against Liberty in the first round of the tournament set a promising tone for the team’s future performance. The Tar Heels will also benefit from the home-field advantage that comes with the squad’s No. 1 seed.

“It’s amazing,” Ohai said. “Being able to play on Fetzer is an honor. To realize who played on the field, like Mia Hamm, and to look over and see Anson … it doesn’t even feel real. It still doesn’t feel real as a senior. We want to defend our field.”

sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.