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Welcome to the second episode of "Hark the Pod," the Daily Tar Heel's new sports podcast, bringing you in-depth news and analysis about UNC sports. 

In this episode, the DTH's sports desk talks about the successful start to the soccer season and what fans can look forward to from the UNC women's team. 

Hark the Pod, Episode 2

In Episode 2, the DTH's sports desk talks about the successful start to the soccer season and what fans can look forward to from the UNC women's team. 


 [INTRO] All right, let's go with that play where we get it to Wrigley. 

And she smokes a bomb in there. Forcing Meyer for the save, trying to win it here. Loose. Murphy is there. Still there and it’s in!

The Tar Heels have won again at Dorrance Field. Murphy was in the middle and I'm not sure who's going to get the goal but the Tar Heels knock off Stanford 2-1!

DTH Sports Editor PJ Morales: Hello, and welcome to Episode Two of Hark the Pod. The official sports podcast of The Daily Tar Heel. My name is PJ Morales, alongside me: Hunter Nelson and Jeremiah Holloway. How y'all doing tonight guys?

Assistant Sports Editor Hunter Nelson: I'm doing fantastic. 

Assistant Sports Editor Jeremiah Holloway: I'm doing pretty good. 

PM: Yeah, I'm doing pretty good too. It's been a long night, but we got some women's soccer to talk about. So, let's jump headfirst into it. Last women's soccer match: 2-1 overtime win over Stanford, rematch of the 2019 National Championship. Thoughts on the match guys?

HN: Yeah, a lot of narratives coming into this one. So, obviously the goalkeeper from Stanford, Katie Meyer made headlines after she sort of shut down the North Carolina attack in that 2019 championship. She's still there. She’s still the goalkeeper for Stanford. But it was a good one. You know, in the first half, Stanford jumped out to the early lead. Emily Murphy, UNC’s first year forward from England actually hurt her ankle and took off her shoes midway through the game was getting it taped as the game was going on, and then she came back and scored the equalizer in the second half. And then, you know, in overtime, there was sort of a tight little skirmish for the ball and no one really knew what was going on, but it eventually found the back of the net for UNC to give them the win. But it was a good one, you know, a nice little weekend afternoon game. And it produced a lot of content throughout.

JH: Certainly, and even though it was a really low scoring game, you can still certainly tell that UNC was continuing their unselfish play, the way they typically enjoy playing and it was obviously a hard-fought game. Really anytime you go in overtime and you know, it doesn't really matter, like the shot attempts, you know, a lot of those things don't really matter when you get to that point. So, just moving on to a 6-0 record, remaining the number two team in the nation, so we're following how this team goes... especially considering the caliber of opponents that they've played just the team sitting 6-0, and you know, even fighting it out in in these low scoring games.

PM: Yeah, obviously also a big start to the beginning of the season for Rachael Dorwart. Forward who didn't get a lot of playing time in her first two seasons here playing behind, you know, Alessia Russo and Izzy Cox, a lot of great forwards for UNC, she has been showing out she's been scoring some goals, three goals in three games. But something I do want to talk about is some of the interesting players who've been playing for UNC. A lot of new faces, obviously Ruby Grant and Emily Murphy coming out of England. What have you noticed from some of the people taking the field for UNC?

HN: Well, what I noticed is Anson Dorrance, I think early on in the season as UNC sort of gets its feet wet, is really trying to play around with these lineup rotations. So obviously, one of Anson Dorrance’s staples with substitutions is sort of doing this line change thing where instead of subbing one person in for another. It'll be sort of like one team comes in for another and they sort of go from there. So, three of the main players from the team last year, Rachel Jones, Sam Meza and Izzy Cox, really rank nowhere near the top of the team as far as minutes played. So, I think he's really trying to break in these new players, Emily Murphy being one of them, and she's been outstanding thus far. So, I think just the rest of the season and as he moves into ACC play in the coming weeks, how Anson sort of figures out those lineups and figures out those rotations is going to be critical for the team moving forward.

JH: And kind of switching gears on that a little bit. One player that I wanted to kind of talk about a little bit, obviously, is Claudia Dickey. Now obviously, the goalie has a very defined kind of role on the team. But I think it's worth pointing out Claudia Dickey has only given up three goals this year. And I think that's really significant, because this is not a team that's been very high scoring, and we might talk about a little later, like, just comparatively to the other programs in the country, how many goals they've been able to produce, but the fact that to only give up three goals this far, considering the types of games that they played, I think that really helps the team control the game and I think that it goes a long way for them, I guess, at this point. So obviously, you know, there is there are certainly offensive talent on the team. I'm not saying that but I'm saying that given what they've had to the types of games they had to play. I think that's something worth pointing out.

HN: Yeah, no, and I was just going to say too, I think when you talk about Claudia Dickey, you can't really talk about her without mentioning Maycee Bell in some capacity. You know, the two time all-ACC, player she could potentially be one of the women's defenders for the national team in the coming years. She is that good. She is that regarded by the rest of the coaches. So, she's been a great piece locking down that backline for the UNC defense that as you mentioned, has only given have three goals this season. So, the high scoring offense is going to be what you know captures a lot of the headlines, 16 goals thus far. But the plus 13 goal differential is what's really made UNC a 6-0 start thus far.

PM: Yeah, and there were a lot of question marks after Alessia Russo, Lois Joel leave the team last year, go back to England. There were some questions that needed to be answered in the spring continuation season that seem to have been answered now. Obviously, outscoring your opponent's 16-3 when you're starting striker from last year only has 126 minutes is a significant number in-and-of itself. They played a lot of really good teams in the beginning of the season. And yet still 6-0 against former national champion contender, against a lot of really strong teams that often make the women's college cup playoffs. What does that say to you, Jeremiah, about the fact that they're still rocking the season 6-0?

JH: Oh, yeah. Well, I guess when you look at it, the fact that they've beaten Stanford, Washington, Ohio State, among other teams, I think it reminds people of I would say the of this of this program. Of course, you know, they haven't won a championship in a long time, they haven’t won one championship since 2012, a national championship that is, but I think it really just speaks to the fact that they continue to be, you know, a team to be reckoned with. I think what it's what it speaks, I guess, specifically about this season is, I don't know, maybe they have paid attention to the fact that it's been such a long time and they're trying to go out and end that drought.

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HN: Yeah. And I think going off of that, they've been at the doorstep so many times in the past few years now. And they just couldn't get over the top. So, when you look at the regular season, Anson isn't too concerned about potentially dropping a game in the regular season if it could pay dividends later, as far as teaching the lesson, or, you know, getting players situated for those big games coming up. 

So, I think looking at all these tough early season matchups, and obviously, they've been unscathed thus far, which they'll take any day of the week. But I think just gaining the experience and gaining the minutes and that's why you see so many lineup changes. Anson wants these players really familiar with the process of being a UNC women's soccer player for these big games coming down the line. 

Since 2012, six different teams have won national championships. So, it's not like there's a new dynasty that sort of been established. It's just that the love is being spread all throughout the rest of the country. So, there's just more parity within the sport.

PM: Yeah and it is, you know, really interesting to see the greater parity like you said, kind of increasing in the sport of collegiate women's soccer. Not just within UNC itself, but, you know, schools like FSU, you know, UC Santa Clara, Virginia, Clemson, Duke, all these schools that have really started dedicating a lot of time and energy to women's soccer and it shows. I mean, five of the teams in the preseason top 10 were from the ACC, like, it's really impressive to see. 

And it's also impressive to see how UNC especially in recent years has been able to leverage a lot of players from across the Atlantic Ocean. Like you were saying, Alessia Russo, Lois Joel, three British stars who really helped lead the team to like a high-powered place in the last three seasons, three consecutive women's college cup finishes doesn't happen like that. 

But I mean, to see them go back across channel and then you know, stars like Ruby Grant now coming here and getting a fresh start at UNC. It's been really interesting to see how the identity of UNC has evolved from, you know, just being the school that always won to being the school that’s always competitive, but now kind of leveraging new tactics. And it's, it's kind of hard to say, oh, after all this winning, without the winning what is the identity of UNC women's soccer beyond, you know, the face of Anson Dorrance, who's literally been the only coach that UNC women's soccer has ever had, and all the you know, legendary stars that have come through here, you know, Tobin Heath, Crystal Dunn, so many legends? I mean, what, what is the identity now, when that winning isn't necessarily there?

HN: Well, I don't mean to, I think we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves. I mean, UNC has been winning, you know, within the ACC, and then even the last three years, they've reached the college cup. They went to the championship game in 2018 before losing the Florida State. They went against Stanford in 2019, they lost in the Final Four last year to Santa Clara. So, they've had their chances, they just haven't been able to get over that hump of recent years. 

JH: And I think one thing that you have to kind of look at is what your even definition of identity is. If you're talking about identity on the field, or if you're talking about just the general reputation, I think the fact that they've had Anson Dorrance there and he's been, you know, pretty consistent with his gameplay and even in the down period of not winning national titles, but you understand what the offense is going to bring, you understand what type of team he wants to put out there. And I definitely understand that sense of, you know, if UNC is not winning, which they usually do, what is this team? What’s their kind of purpose? But I think even the fact that they are competing, is obviously significant. 

And like I said, I think they’re still pretty close to contention every year and I think even going back to the football conversation that we were having about Mack Brown trying to give that team that identity, I think when we're looking at Anson Dorrance, there's already something there. People know year in year out what to expect. They've had a great abundance of talent, very recently, even so, I think that their identity is largely on the field. I just think that, you know, they haven't necessarily reached the standard that they're accustomed to recently. But it's a very it's a very interesting conversation to have. It just depends on if you're looking at the on the field style of play, or if you're looking at the off the field accomplishments.

PM: And maybe at the end of the day, you know, that's it. Cause Anson has all these little things he does. Beyond just the drills he runs, the values he makes people memorize, the style of play, it's all very Anson Dorrance. And at the end of day it is next man up. And it has been you know, Izzy Cox has proven herself to be a great striker. Maycee Bell is a fantastic defender, all-ACC defender. So, there's clearly an identity to this team, you know, beyond just who's playing on it and who they're playing against it. There is a culture and we've always known that. 


PM: Thank you for listening to episode two of Hark the Pod. I am PJ Morales alongside Hunter Nelson and Jeremiah Holloway. Have a good one.

This episode was produced by Levi Pitts. Supervising producers were Audio Editor Leo Culp, Multimedia Managing Editor Alex Berenfeld and Editor-in-Chief Praveena Somasundaram.