When Loyola University’s name popped up on the screen, the watching party for the NCAA women’s soccer pairings at the Baltimore university cheered.
“Duke came up, and then our team, and everyone was cheering,” Loyola coach Katherine Remy Vettori said. Then the reality set in for Vettori, a former Duke player.
“My first reaction was, wow, they were in the national championship (game) last year, and they returned everybody,” she said. “I get to go home and play against them. My players get to play at a beautiful facility and have this experience. They get to see what my experience was like. So I’m ecstatic about this opportunity.”
Third-seeded Duke (12-5-2) will host Loyola (12-5-4) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Koskinen Stadium. It is one of two NCAA first-round games in the Triangle. Second-seeded North Carolina (10-5-2) plays Radford (14-2-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Fetzer Field.
Vettori, whose husband Jason played lacrosse at Duke, was a two-time All-ACC first-teamer during her days in Durham (1992-95). Three times she was named Duke’s Most Valuable Player, playing forward and outside midfielder for then-coach Bill Hempen. She still ranks among Duke’s all-time top 10 in goals (24), assists (18) and points (66), and she shares the school record for most points in a game (7).
The native of Norman, Okla., had three sisters who played in the ACC, too: Amanda at Duke (1994-97), Anne at North Carolina (1998-2001), and Elizabeth at Wake Forest (2003-06).
“I thoroughly enjoyed my entire experience at Duke,” Vettori said. “But the highlight would be when we beat Carolina (3-2) at their place in ’94. That was a great night. That was the first time they had ever lost at home. After they beat us 9-1 in the national championship game in ’92, to get them back at their place in ’94 was very special.”
Longtime Duke assistant coach Carla Overbeck began her tenure in 1992, when Remy was a freshman, and remembers her well.
“She was a very good player,” Overbeck said. “She played on top, liked to take on players and get behind the defense. She worked extremely hard, was a leader by example and was just a great kid.
“She’s one of those players you want on your team because you know she would do anything in her power to make your team win.”
Overbeck said she wasn’t surprised that Vettori went into coaching.
“She was one of the leaders on our team, very well-liked, and everyone respected her work ethic,” Overbeck said. “People with those characteristics and personality traits do themselves a disservice if they don’t work with kids. So I was so happy she was coaching this team.
“It will be fun to see her and catch up. Obviously she has done a great job because her team made the NCAA tournament.”
Not surprisingly, the Vettori family still follows Duke athletics and watches the various Blue Devils teams on television whenever possible.
“We’re fans,” Vettori admitted. “Our kids have Duke gear all around the house. But this weekend it’s all Loyola.”
She described her team as “hardworking, with a lot of fight.” The Greyhounds earned their eighth bid to the NCAA tournament by upsetting top-seeded Marist 2-1 in the championship game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
Loyola’s key players are junior Didi Haracic, the MAAC goalkeeper of the year, and senior forward Nichole Schiro, the MAAC offensive player of the year for the third straight time. She led the league in goals (15) and points (34).
However, Vettori realizes her team faces a tall order this weekend in the Blue Devils.
“At every single position they are special,” she said. “They have technical ability, athletic ability. They’re a fun team to watch. They possess the ball well and attack with speed.
“We’ll have to bring our best.”