If you’re looking for an alternative way to describe Anson Dorrance’s influence on college soccer — other than the 1,000-plus career wins and 22 national championships – take a peek at his coaching tree.
On Sunday, as the No. 4 North Carolina women’s soccer team (3-0-1) hosted No. 23 Central Florida (0-2) at Finley Fields South, Dorrance sat under the shade of the touchline dugout, studying his team’s performance against the Knights.
A little more than 10 yards to his right, UCF head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak mirrored Dorrance’s actions, attempting to guide her team to a second victory against the Tar Heels in as many years.
Once a star midfielder who won two national titles playing for Dorrance in the 1990s, Roberts Sahaydak is now his counterpart.
This scenario has not been an isolated occurrence early in the 2018 season for Dorrance and UNC.
Sunday’s match against UCF, a 1-0 win for the Tar Heels, marked the fourth time in as many games that Dorrance coached against a former player of his.
He did so in the season opener against Illinois’ Janet Rayfield, Dorrance’s first-ever recruit and against Ohio State (Lori Walker-Hock) and Texas (Angela Kelly).
“Those four teams, all coached by Tar Heels, are going to win a heck of a lot of games this year,” Dorrance said. “And so, they’re going to help us with our RPI, just like I hope we help them with (their) RPI, and I think this was a great four-game stretch against former Tar Heels that are coaching elite Division I teams. I’m very proud of all of them.”
For Roberts Sahaydak, a three-time first-team All-ACC selection at UNC, Sunday’s match marked the fourth time she squared off against Dorrance, the coach she said “taught us all about care” while also being an “incredible motivator.”
She said Sunday’s game wasn’t as weird as UCF’s 2016 trip to Chapel Hill, when it played at Fetzer Field, her former stomping grounds.
“That was unbelievable, just because I’m playing on the field that I played on for Anson, and now I’m sitting on the sidelines next to him, going up against him,” said Roberts Sahaydak, whose team lost that match 2-0.
A year later, however, UCF defeated the Tar Heels 2-1 in overtime, as Roberts Sahaydak, per Dorrance, became the first former player of his to win against UNC as a coach.
“I tip my hat to her,” said Dorrance, who thinks the current UCF team is a reflection of Roberts Sahaydak, with its smarts and aggression. “Obviously I was gutted. But looking at her big smile on her face walking over to me after they had won … it made me feel a lot better.”
Of the four former players he faced over the past two weeks, Dorrance said they each showed signs during their playing days that hinted at coaching careers down the line.
Illinois’ Rayfield, for instance, was a four-time captain, a solid indicator for a future in coaching. Meanwhile, Dorrance said Walker-Hock of Ohio State provided him with one of his “favorite moments” in his “coaching life” when she called to apologize for arguing with him over her fitness level as a player.
“She’s an outstanding coach,” Dorrance said about Walker-Hock.
On Sunday, the Tar Heels avenged last year’s loss to UCF, thanks to redshirt sophomore Taylor Otto’s difference-making goal.
When Dorrance considered whether there are any current UNC players who could be coaches down the line, Otto’s name came up.
What does the 5-10 forward think about that?
“I love the sport, so whatever I can do to stay around it … if it brings me to coaching then that would be awesome,” Otto said. “But right now I just want to keep playing as long as a I can.”
According to Dorrance, Otto has a “great mind for the game.” For now, though, she’ll focus on using it for playing.
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