The British are coming.
In fact, they're already here — they’re the newest stars on the North Carolina women’s soccer team.
English first years, midfielder Ruby Grant and forward Emily Murphy, combined for three goals in No. 3 UNC’s season opening 4-1 win against No. 19 Washington.
Grant and Murphy are the latest players to come across the pond and play for the Tar Heels under legendary head coach Anson Dorrance. Tar Heel greats like Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy were other English players that were developed under Dorrance, creating the pipeline for the two British youngsters to join the team.
“To have those two kids right out of the gate to contribute in that fashion was absolutely fantastic,” Dorrance said. “We love those kids, they’re wonderfully humble and hardworking and fun to be with.”
Murphy passed up the royal blue of Chelsea F.C. for Carolina blue and the chance to play under Dorrance, a 22-time national champion coach.
“He was a big influence in that decision,” Murphy said. “He’s been here for a long time, and he has a huge reputation, and a positive one. The way he develops players individually, for me that was the real pulling point.”
Murphy put the Tar Heels on the board first, almost 11 minutes into the game. A cross from senior forward Rachel Jones found the foot of sophomore transfer Emily Moxley, who passed it over to Murphy, who in turn just needed to put a touch on it to find the back of the net.
The goal was Murphy’s first goal wearing Carolina blue — and given the talent needed to play for Chelsea, it likely won’t be her last one in the iconic uniform.
“I thought wherever the ball went, I was going to get something on it,” Murphy said. “I threw my body at it, I knew I was ahead of my defender, so I think any contact I got on it, regardless of what body part it was, it probably would’ve got in.”
Grant, who has played for West Ham and Arsenal in England, was supposed to come during the fall semester and play for the team. Due to COVID-19, though, her arrival in Chapel Hill was delayed a semester. But she's still classified as a first year, and she’s already got a season with the team under her belt because the Tar Heels played in the spring.
"It was a big change coming when I first came in here, we do a lot of random little things that take a bit of getting used to," Grant said. "Now I feel like I’ve settled in well and I’m comfortable with the team and I can just focus on my game.”
The spring season, Grant said, was good — but not her best.
"So I want to build on that and take motivation from that," she said.
And the 4-1 win tonight wasn’t just the work of Murphy and Grant — the entire team was firing on all cylinders.
The Tar Heels returned key players in upperclassmen forwards Jones and Isabel Cox on offense, and senior goalie Claudia Dickey and junior defender Maycee Bell on defense.
The UNC back line formed a mighty wall, not allowing the Huskies to get any good chances on Dickey, and the Tar Heels also held possession, creating goal-scoring opportunities for themselves.
A North Carolina team that just last year was in the semifinals of the Women's College Cup, has retooled while also keeping its foundational core together.
And if that wasn’t enough, in the process they’ve added two players from across the Atlantic that could be bigger than Big Ben.
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