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Wednesday February 1st

'I'm overwhelmed': UNC women's soccer wins two in new stadium

UNC women's soccer alumna pose for a picture after being recognized during halftime at the game against Duke on August 25, 2019. UNC beat Duke 2-0.
Buy Photos UNC women's soccer alumna pose for a picture after being recognized during halftime at the game against Duke on August 25, 2019. UNC beat Duke 2-0.

A strong showing against a highly talented rival culminated in the No. 2 North Carolina women's soccer team's second win of the season, a 2-0 victory against No. 8 Duke on Sunday. 

Starting the season with a 2-0 record is nothing out of the ordinary for 21-time NCAA champion head coach Anson Dorrance. However, what made these wins different was the fact they were the first action at the new UNC Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium, both as part of the annual Carolina Nike Classic.

"I'm overwhelmed," Dorrance said.

Expected to be completed in August of 2018, the renovation process was repeatedly delayed by unforeseen underground conditions, among other reasons. Now the Tar Heels finally have their home back, and the new facilities are proving to be worth the wait.

"It's absolutely amazing," senior Megan Goff said.

The talented defender all but sealed the game with a cross that forced an own goal from Duke to put UNC up 2-0 with 14:24 left. After the score, she met up with her ecstatic teammates to jump, yell and share an embrace. 

Celebrating after a goal is nothing out of the norm for Goff and the team, but they decided to give the overflowing crowd a bigger show than usual, running to the front of the stands to celebrate with the crowd.

"With this new stadium we decided we had to celebrate a little bit more," Goff said. "So we're trying to involve the crowd a little bit more. And it's easy when the crowd is this into the game."

Goff and other upperclassmen played most of their "home" games at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill. Though many were growing tired of the uncertainty of not having a place to call their own, Goff believes it was worth the wait in the end.

"It was all worth it, even though sometimes it felt like it was taking way too long," Goff said. "We were getting impatient, but it's been incredible." 

The fans were electric for the entirety of the game, so much so it caught the eye of Dorrance. He said he wants to continue and build hype around the program and bring in bigger crowds as a result.

"For us to have credibility even before our own athletic directors, this has to be the atmosphere, and it has to be a sell out," Dorrance said.

Though the renovations are largely completed, the legendary coach jokingly offered up a way to further improve the new facilities if the turnout continues to grow.

"I would love for Bubba (Cunningham) to wake up one morning and say 'You know what? We've got to build in that end zone because of the crowd,'" Dorrance said, gesturing to the football practice facility next door.

One player who can potentially lure droves of fans to the games is first-year Alexis Strickland. The Raleigh-born forward scored her first career goal, ushering in a new era for the field and the team that plays on it. It has long been her dream to don a North Carolina uniform, and doing it under the lights of a brand new facility has made it mean even more to her. 

"Being a little girl, I always dreamed to come out here and play on this field," Strickland said. "It's a beautiful stadium, so it's just a great feeling."

After a successful christening during the Carolina Nike Classic in their opening weekend, the Tar Heels will look to remain perfect on their new turf — and uphold their storied legacy.

@KenjonVander

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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