Carolina gives Oregon a blueprint for success

Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina basketball coach, once wryly noted that his school wasn’t a basketball school, despite the rich tradition surrounding the hoops powerhouse.

No, he said, North Carolina is a women’s soccer school.

On Sunday, the Oregon Ducks found out why that’s true as they put up a monumental effort and still fell to the Tar Heels, 3-0 at Papé Field.

North Carolina has a list of accomplishments longer than a Sarah Peters goal kick, and at times Sunday it felt like the Ducks were playing a media guide instead of a soccer team. The Tar Heels have
won 17 national championships in this fashion, by intimidating and bullying opponents.

But two Oregon coaches spent Sunday staring down the present, not the past.

“We love the challenge, we want to coach against the best,” Oregon assistant coach Keri Sanchez said.

Sanchez and head coach Bill Steffen both have close ties to the soccer powerhouse from Chapel Hill. Sanchez was a standout player for North Carolina from 1991-94, and among other accomplishments scored the winning goals in the Tar Heels’ national championship games in 1992 and 1993.

Steffen was an assistant coach at North Carolina, focusing on the defense and goalkeepers, from 1993-95.

“It was more emotional from a standpoint of, ‘What can we do against them?’ ” Steffen said. “We want to know where we stack up against the best team in the country.”

Steffen’s defense showed North Carolina-esque tendencies in holding the Tar Heels to only three goals. But that may have had more to do with Peters, the Oregon goalie who Tar Heel coach Anson Dorrance called “the best goalkeeper we’ve seen all year.” Peters made several leaping saves and showed poise
in net.

Dorrance said that Steffen’s deft handling of ‘keepers is not something he learned at Chapel Hill.

“He came in with everything he needed,” Dorrance said, laughing.

Dorrance has crafted the most successful college sports program in history — going back to Dean Smith’s comments, North Carolina is known nation-wide for its soccer program — by building a system that works. That system has produced gaudy statistics, from the 17 national titles to the six-straight final appearances, the 13-straight national championships, the 14-straight players of the year, the national team members and the women’s soccer legends, like Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.

Now, Oregon’s UNC connections are trying to duplicate that powder-blueprint.

“To have a successful program like that, they’re doing things right,” Sanchez said. “We want to be where Carolina is.”

Steffen, who has traditionally scheduled games against top-tier opponents with the hope of toughening his own squad, said playing the top-ranked Tar Heels didn’t faze his team in the slightest.

“You don’t need to hype a game with North Carolina,” Steffen said. “It’s exciting for the players. It’s
a challenge.”

Steffen said his team was excited about the strong play of its defense and goalkeeper. For the 1-5-1 Ducks, any glimmer of good play is a positive.

“This is the type of game we need to learn from,” Steffen said.

“The Ducks are just continuing to get better,” said Dorrance, whose Tar Heels last played Oregon in 2000, a 6-0 North Carolina clobbering of the Ducks.

That’s high praise from a man who earned the indirect accolades of Dean Smith.

Related Sites:
University of Oregon – Women’s Soccer – Official Site
Women’s Soccer – University of North Carolina – Official Site
Ducks get Heel-ed by top-ranked UNC – Oregon Daily Emerald

Contact the sports editor at [email protected].


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