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Sunday December 5th

17 undefeated regular seasons later: Remembering UNC women's soccer's best years

UNC women’s soccer team huddles before the start of their game against Wake Forest at Dorrence Field on Thursday, Sep. 17, 2020. UNC defeated Wake Forest with a final score of 4-1. Two of the goals were scored by junior forward Brianna Pinto, number eight, and the other two by junior forward Rachel Jones, number 10.
Buy Photos UNC women’s soccer team huddles before the start of their game against Wake Forest at Dorrence Field on Thursday, Sep. 17, 2020.

It’s no secret that the North Carolina women’s soccer team is a program to be reckoned with. It’s also not surprising to hear that it just wrapped up its 17th undefeated regular season in the school's history.

The Tar Heels' program has a long, dynastic history, and even with a shortened season this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has proven its dominance and didn’t let anything get in its way, winning all nine regular season games it was given.

In honor of the team's latest undefeated year, here's a deep dive look back at some of the program's most impressive undefeated seasons.

A group of UNC players petitioned and even garnered the support of Anson Dorrance, the school's men’s soccer coach at the time and the current women's head coach, to create a varsity team in 1979. In 1981, the Tar Heels had their first undefeated season, just two years after the program started, and ended the season as AIAW champions. During that first championship run, UNC played three games within three days during the tournament weekend, all without allowing a single goal. 

Although North Carolina won an NCAA National Championship in 12 of the next 13 years, the 1986 undefeated championship meant more to the team because of the way the previous year had ended. The Tar Heels tied in the 1985 season opener with George Mason before going on to win 12 games in a row. They had one loss against Massachusetts, 2-0, before going on to lose in the 1985 NCAA final to George Mason, also 2-0.

North Carolina redeemed itself in the 1986 season, with seniors April Heinrichs and Marcia McDermott leading their team to annihilate both Massachusetts, 4-0, and George Mason, 4-2, in the regular season. UNC won the NCAA crown, reclaimed its place on top and proceeded to rattle off four consecutive undefeated seasons in the following years.

Heinrichs is remembered for a UNC career that included two National Player of the Year honors, 87 goals and scoring the winning goal against George Mason in the first overtime of the 1986 NCAA semifinals to help lead her team to a win after double overtime.

1987 was a season to remember, with the Tar Heels only allowing two goals to slip past their strong defense the entire season. It’s also remembered for its strong winds in the National Championship game, which the Tar Heels had to fight against in the first half. Luckily, the team used it to its advantage in the second half to secure the win and the national title.

Someone who can’t go unmentioned when talking about North Carolina women’s soccer is Mia Hamm, who played in Chapel Hill from 1989 to 1993 and led the team to 94 victories out of the 95 games she played in her five years there. She won countless awards, such as ACC Female Athlete of the Year in 1992-93 and 1993-94 and Most Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year in college before winning two Olympic gold medals. 

Hamm's redshirt junior year, a 1992 season in which she was named National Player of the Year unanimously, was another memorable campaign for North Carolina. The Tar Heels only trailed in games twice during their entire season, finishing with a 25-0 record.

In one of the few games UNC trailed was during the NCAA final against Duke, where the Blue Devils scored the first goal, but the Tar Heels scored the next nine, giving them a 9-1 blowout victory to win the title. At the end of this season, the Tar Heels had a record of 58 consecutive wins — a streak started in October of 1990 — which set an NCAA record.

A lot of people think of UNC as a men's basketball school. But in 1997, when basketball coach Dean Smith was asked about whether his team or the school's football team was more deserving of a No. 1 ranking, he turned his attention toward Dorrance's program.

“This is a women’s soccer school," Smith said. "We’re just trying to keep up with them.”

With over three times as many national championships as the basketball team, the women’s soccer team has earned its place on top and deserves all the recognition it can get.

@guin_grace

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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