For the second time in this postseason, a former Triangle college star will return to coach against her alma mater in the NCAA Womens Soccer Championship.
Last week in a first-round match, Katherine Remy Vettori saw her Loyola (Md.) team eliminated by Duke, 6-0.
When Illinois plays North Carolina at 6:30 p.m. Friday in a second-round game at Fetzer Field, Illinois coach Janet Rayfield will try to end that trend in her third appearance opposite her mentor, UNC coach Anson Dorrance.
Rayfield was an assistant coach at Arkansas for a 1992 regular-season game that the Tar Heels won 7-1. She returned as head coach at Illinois in 2008, when UNC prevailed 3-0 in an NCAA third-round meeting.
Janet was one of my first recruits, Dorrance said. Shes a wonderful human being and a great coach.
She was a great player, too. Rayfield, who played at UNC from 1979-82, was one of the Tar Heels early stars when they won the AIAW national championship in 1981 and the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1982. Her name still can be found in the schools record books as she ranks third in career points and second in career goals.
Rayfield has fond memories of her playing days at UNC.
What makes it special is to share them with your team, she said. Its fun for them to make that connection and fun for me to share them, in front of fans and a coach and a program I respect a lot.
Any time in the coaching profession you compete against someone you respect a lot, its a special atmosphere. It makes coaching the game enjoyable but maybe even more competitive because certainly we both want to win.
In 11 years at Illinois, Rayfield has compiled a 140-79-22 record and earned nine NCAA tournament bids. This year, the Illini lost 2-1 in the Big Ten championship game to Ohio State but received an at-large NCAA berth.
Last week Rayfield was named the winner of the Honor Award by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, the organizations highest coaching honor. She also served as an assistant coach to Virginias Steve Swanson on the U.S. team that won the Under-20 Womens World Cup in Japan back in September.
Illinois (10-8-4) advanced last week by eliminating Missouri on penalty kicks 3-0 after the teams tied 1-1 through regulation and two overtimes. UNC (11-5-2), a No. 2 seed, claimed a 2-0 victory over Radford.
The Illini are led by junior midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo, a familiar soccer name. Her father Angelo was the Hermann Award winner as college soccers player of the year in 1978 at Indiana. DiBernardo, who assisted on the goal against Missouri, leads Illinois in goals (8) and points (20). She was also a member of the U-20 World Cup team with UNC junior forward Kealia Ohai, junior midfielder-defender Crystal Dunn and freshman goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin.
Vanessa DiBernardo is someone we have to be careful of, Dorrance warned. She takes all of their setpieces, and shes a very good striker of the ball. I think she will pose some challenges for us.
Ohai and Dunn are key players for UNC as well. Ohai emerged from the Radford game with a leg injury, and her status for todays game is uncertain. Dunn, who recently was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year for an unprecedented second straight time, moved to midfield against Radford and scored her first goal of the season.
Caitlin Ball has come back from injury, so now we have the privilege of playing her at center back, sending Crystal wherever we need her, Dorrance explained.
The winner Friday will play at 1 p.m. Sunday against either third-seeded Baylor (18-1-4) or Georgetown (16-3-3), who meet at 4 p.m. today in the first game of the NCAA doubleheader at Chapel Hill.
Elsewhere in the second round, third-seeded Duke (13-5-2) takes on Miami of Ohio (20-2-1) at Charlottesville, Va. The winner gets either No. 2 seed Virginia (17-4-1) or Rutgers (13-7-1) on Sunday.