UNC women No. 1 in soccer poll

kcoons@newsobserver.comAugust 21, 2013 

Seven ACC women’s teams are ranked among the preseason top 25 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. Reigning NCAA champion North Carolina was a runaway choice for No. 1 with 31 of the 32 first-place votes.

UNC coach Anson Dorrance doesn’t mind seeing the target on his team’s back.

“Actually if you quizzed them on it, I don’t know how many are aware of it,” he said of his players. “Usually the defending national champion comes back with that ranking. … Our kids are experienced enough to know the preseason ranking, while certainly flattering, doesn't have a lot of substance. The only thing we know is we’re going to get every team's best shot, which we look at as a positive.”

UNC will play nine teams ranked in the preseason top 25, including six others in the ACC – Florida State (3), Duke (7), Virginia (8), Notre Dame (10), Wake Forest (15) and Maryland (17).

Hermann watch: Three area women’s players made the watch list for the Hermann Award for national player of the year, including the 2012 winner, senior midfielder Crystal Dunn of North Carolina. She is joined by teammate Kealia Ohai, a senior forward, and Duke senior defender Natasha Anasi.

The other ACC players on the list are goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and forward Katie Stengel of Wake Forest, and midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir and goalkeeper Kelsey Wys of Florida State.

Dunn won’t be available for the Carolina Nike Classic over Labor Day weekend. She is being called to train with the U.S. National Team.

Recruiting for success: If the recruiting experts got it right, things could be looking up for N.C. State men’s coach Kelly Findley in his third season with the Wolfpack. Findley’s 11-man recruiting haul for this fall has been ranked No. 16 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer and No. 18 by CollegeSoccerNews.com.

CSN is particularly encouraged by U.S. U-18 National Team forward Travis Wannemuehler of Evansville, Ind., rated the No. 33 player in the class of 2013. CSN also likes midfielder Roland Minogue of Charlotte Catholic and UCLA sophomore transfer Holden Fender, a midfielder who also could make an immediate impact.

However, the Pack’s recruiting success is pretty much business as usual in the ACC, where seven schools ranked among CSN’s top 20 recruiting classes. The rundown: Virginia (2), Maryland (3), UNC (6), Wake Forest (9), Boston College (14), Notre Dame (19), Duke (22), Syracuse (33) and Clemson (40).

Exhibition season: Five area teams had an exhibition game last weekend, with the UNC women idle.

The UNC men blanked host Elon 3-0, and the most noteworthy element of the match was that all three goals for the Tar Heels were scored by reserves who played sparingly last season – senior midfielder Chipper Root, a former South Carolina transfer from Chapel Hill High, and sophomore midfielder Nico Melo. UNC lost five of its top seven scorers from last year.

The Duke men had a scoreless draw with George Washington despite outshooting the Colonials 11-4, prompting coach John Kerr to sound a familiar refrain: “… Like last year we didn’t execute in the final third … our execution going forward was lacking.”

N.C. State’s men played a scoreless 45 minutes against host High Point – Wolfpack senior forward Alex Martinez’s former team – before rain cut the match short.

With Duke’s women having graduated three of their starting four defenders, freshman Christina Gibbons might have the inside track to claim one of those spots. The former Cardinal Gibbons standout scored a goal less than 5 minutes into a 2-0 exhibition win over Tennessee. Another freshman, Krysia Sikora, had the other goal for Duke.

Senior midfielder Kaley Shlaes and junior defender Shelli Spamer had the goals for N.C. State in a 3-2 exhibition loss at UNC Greensboro on Saturday. The Wolfpack outshot UNCG 17-12 but gave up two goals in the first 20 minutes of the second half to fall behind 3-1.

Looking ahead: All three ACC area women’s teams open the regular season this weekend with two games apiece. UNC travels to Charlottesville, Va., where it will take on No. 16 Santa Clara on Friday and Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday in the Klockner Classic. Duke also goes on the road to play at No. 12 Texas A&M on Friday and at South Carolina on Sunday. N.C. State visits Navy on Friday and hosts Longwood at 7 p.m. Sunday in its home opener under new head coach Tim Santoro.

The area men’s teams are still in exhibition mode. The most intriguing matchups involve No. 4 UNC, which plays Michigan State on Thursday and No. 1 Indiana on Saturday, both in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Hoosiers are the reigning NCAA champions and eliminated the Tar Heels in last year’s quarterfinal at Chapel Hill, ending the Tar Heels’ 40-match home unbeaten streak.

Duke hosts Old Dominion at 7 p.m. Friday, and N.C. State is at home for UNC Wilmington at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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