When the ACC men’s soccer teams open regular-season play this weekend, Duke and North Carolina will sport new looks in goal.
Gone are four-year starter James Belshaw at Duke and three-year starter Scott Goodwin of UNC, the latter a former Broughton High star.
Belshaw was a two-year captain for the Blue Devils and became only the ninth goalkeeper in ACC history to twice be named first-team All-ACC. Goodwin led the nation in goals-against average last year. That effort earned him second-team honors in the ACC.
“He wasn’t penciled into the lineup,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said. “He was written in Sharpie.”
So you might expect that Somoano and his counterpart at Duke, John Kerr, would be scrambling around to find successors. Not so much.
Kerr had the very good fortune of landing Alex Long, a former star at Cary’s Green Hope High and a two-year starter at South Carolina as a junior and senior.
“Alex Long was a recruit of ours when he was a student at Green Hope,” Kerr said. “He got in touch with us and let us know he had a year of eligibility left and wanted to do some graduate work at Duke.”
Somoano has gone a different route. He is trying to settle between redshirt junior Brendan Moore, who had logged only 19 minutes of action as a Tar Heel two years ago, and redshirt sophomore Sam Euler, who has yet to play in a regular-season match.
“We’ll make that decision this week,” Somoano said. Moore has seen most of the preseason action, including a five-save effort in a 1-0 shutout of No. 1 Indiana in an exhibition last Saturday. But Somoano wouldn’t rule out using two goalkeepers.
“We wouldn't split halves during a game, but if we have different (kinds of) games, we could certainly do that,” he said of rotating his starters.
Meanwhile, an ACC goalkeeper with area ties will sit out this fall. Spencer LaCivita, a Millbrook High grad who started his first two years for Virginia, will get a medical redshirt after undergoing offseason hip and groin surgery. But the Cavaliers found a quality replacement in Jeff Gal, who transferred from Creighton. Gal was an All-American last year as a redshirt freshman and led the Bluejays to the College Cup, where they fell to eventual champion Indiana in the NCAA semifinals.
But Gal and coach Elmar Bolowich, the former UNC coach, had a difference of opinion in the offseason. Bolowich’s son, Alex, is one of the team’s goalkeepers, and Gal decided to transfer to a situation that was less muddled. He considered N.C. State – which has a top-notch returning starter in Fabian Otte – Michigan, UCLA and Virginia before settling on the Cavaliers over UCLA, in part because of LaCivita’s injury situation. He will be eligible immediately, because in NCAA soccer transfers don’t have to sit out a year.
Who’s No. 1? Reigning NCAA men’s champion Indiana landed the No. 1 ranking in the preseason coaches’ poll. But that was before No. 4 UNC beat the Hoosiers 1-0 in an exhibition in Fort Wayne, Ind., last weekend.
A little retribution for the Tar Heels, who were eliminated in the NCAA quarterfinals last year by the Hoosiers? Not really, according to Somoano.
“I wish I could play that part, but I don’t really look at it that way,” he said. “It’s a new season, and these aren’t the same teams. I don’t have any hard feelings for anybody who beats us a year prior. We don’t really look at it that way. We're really focused on our next opponent.
“We’re still 0-0-0, and so are they.”
Players of the week: The ACC didn’t have to look far to pick the first co-players of the week. UNC senior midfielder Crystal Dunn and Virginia sophomore midfielder Morgan Brian played in the same tournament last weekend at Charlottesville, Va. Dunn had three goals as No. 1 UNC beat then-No. 9 Santa Clara 2-0 and Virginia Commonwealth 4-0. Brian had a goal and three assists in No. 5 UVa’s 4-2 win over VCU and 4-0 victory over Santa Clara.
Somewhat surprisingly, it was the first time either player had earned weekly ACC honors, but it probably won’t be the last. Dunn was national player of the year last year, and Brian was the MVP of the ACC tournament. Both will report for temporary duty with the U.S. Women’s National Team this weekend.
Looking ahead: The area men’s teams open the regular season this weekend. N.C. State plays at Campbell at 7 p.m. Friday, while UNC entertains Monmouth at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. Sunday. Duke will host the John Rennie/Nike Invitational this weekend, when it will play Rutgers at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Northeastern at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The N.C. State women host Georgia Southern at 7 p.m. Friday and East Tennessee State at 1 p.m. Sunday, while UNC and No. 12 Duke play in the Carolina Nike Classic. The matchups have UNC against New Mexico (5 p.m. Friday) and Kennesaw State (3 p.m. Sunday), and Duke vs. Kennesaw (2:30 p.m. Friday) and New Mexico (noon Sunday).