The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Dual-sport athlete Julia Dorsey mentors UNC women's soccer, aims for national title

Now graduate defender Julia Dorsey (7) stops the ball during the women's soccer 1-2 loss in the ACC Finals against FSU at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022.

Over the past four years, it seems like Julia Dorsey has seen it all.

As the sixth player in UNC history to compete for both the women’s lacrosse and soccer teams, Dorsey experienced the peak of winning the 2022 NCAA women’s lacrosse championship, as well as the trough of North Carolina's crushing College Cup Final loss to UCLA last year.

But perhaps her toughest challenge yet came this past spring, when Dorsey suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

Before the injury, women's lacrosse head coach Jenny Levy and Dorsey devised a plan: Dorsey was going to play lacrosse in the spring and complete her final semester as a UNC athlete in the fall playing soccer. She would then graduate in the winter and enter the National Women’s Soccer League draft.

"As we know, the best-laid plans don’t always work out," Levy said.

Recovering and watching her team from the sidelines isn't where Dorsey envisioned herself during her final season of collegiate soccer. Still, as the season comes to a close — the team just recognized Dorsey along with its nine other soon-to-be graduates in Sunday's Senior Day festivities — she's making the best of her recovery by assuming an invaluable leadership role among the Tar Heels.

'I know what it takes'

After falling just short last season, UNC women's soccer's mantra this year is "chasing 23 in '23," seeking its 23rd national title. Having won a national championship herself — albeit in a different sport — Dorsey feels she knows firsthand what the Tar Heels need, both on and off the field, in order to achieve their lofty goals.

"I've been there for the highest highs, like winning a national championship," Dorsey said. "I know what it takes and what kind of team culture that takes."

On the other hand, Dorsey has also experienced her fair share of lows. She was part of the 2021 women’s soccer team that got upset by South Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, marking head coach Anson Dorrance's first-ever loss in the first round. During the prior spring season, the women’s lacrosse team went 20-0 before falling to Boston College in the Final Four.

The Baltimore native's varied experiences across both sports help her give advice to her younger teammates.

"It's sometimes easy to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, a big prize, but it is a season-long commitment," Dorsey said. "If you want to win the national championship, you can't really take weeks off."

'That’s a Tar Heel'

Whether it’s competing for Levy or Dorrance, Dorsey understands how much team culture plays a role in UNC’s success.

"First and foremost, you have to love each other," Dorsey said. "Not everyone can be best friends, but there has to be that level of respect and camaraderie, and this team definitely has that."

Just as Dorsey has mentored her teammates, the team returned the favor throughout her recovery process. She said everyone helped in "keeping the spirits up." 

Dorsey has continued to hold her team accountable and simultaneously made significant progress on her recovery.

"She’s getting a lot of her speed back," Dorrance noted after observing her in practice. He also highlighted how encouraging it was to see Dorsey doing sprints, given that speed, agility and quickness are all things lost immediately to ACL injuries, according to Dorrance.

Even though the end of her final semester at UNC is approaching, questions about Dorsey’s future remain unanswered. While she said that playing professional soccer is "definitely a dream of [hers]," her expectations for the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League draft remain low, given her injury. Levy, however, said she has "no doubt" that Dorsey will get drafted.

The National Women’s Soccer League also plans to expand to 14 teams in 2024 and, eventually, 16 teams by 2026, opening up more opportunities for amateur players to be drafted. Whether Dorsey transitions to the pros in this year’s draft or down the road, one thing remains clear: she serves as an exemplary figure for what it means to be an athlete at UNC.

As Dorrance reminisced about Dorsey’s first season in Carolina Blue, he kept it simple.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'Yep, that’s a Tar Heel.'"

@dthsports |