College soccer: NC State women see progress; UNC men up to No. 1

kcoons@newsobserver.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Tim Santoro has witnessed his N.C. State women’s team reel off four consecutive victories in his head coaching debut. But as the former Wake Forest assistant noted, “The meat and potatoes of the schedule is coming up.”

With freshman Jackie Stengel scoring five goals in four games, the Wolfpack earned 3-2 victories over Navy and Longwood, and last weekend blanked Georgia Southern 4-0 and East Tennessee State 3-0. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Mackenzie Stelljes, a transfer from Iona College, recorded shutouts in her first two starts.

“Since I got here last spring, the girls have been great in their commitment, work ethic and ability to accept change,” Santoro said. “I feel like each game we’ve gotten better. We’re trying not to be results-based as we build the program, but if we get results, that’s a bonus.”

Stengel, who decommitted from her home-state University of Florida before opting for N.C. State, has been a key. She is the younger sister of Wake Forest senior All-American forward Katie Stengel, “my first recruit at Wake,” Santoro said.

“Jackie has been as advertised and then some. She’s been very good for us, not just good for a freshman, but good, period.”

Katie Stengel helped the Deacons go from a top-25 program to a top-10 national power.

“I’m not going to put pressure on Jackie to duplicate that, but we’re hoping she can help us take those kinds of steps as a program,” said Santoro, who is also getting contributions from some veterans. He singled out junior midfielder Jessica Baity, redshirt senior defender Megan Proper, junior defender Shelli Spamer, and sophomore forwards Carolina Gentry and Brittany Stanko. Gentry, from Leesville Road High, is second on the team in scoring with three goals.

From here on out, however, it gets harder, beginning with a visit from No. 13 Georgetown that was played late Wednesday. The Pack fell the Hoyas 2-0.

“They know Georgetown is the first of a lot of ranked teams,” Santoro said of his players. “I told them, ‘There’s a lot of them coming.’”

Debut in D.C.: Crystal Dunn earned her first international cap Tuesday night in the U.S. Women’s National Team's 7-0 destruction of Mexico at RFK Stadium in Washington. Dunn, last year's college player of the year for NCAA champion North Carolina, started at right outside back before being substituted in the 56th minute.

Barely a minute into the match, Dunn found herself defending in the middle of a 2-on-1 fast break. She recovered in time to break up a return pass right in front of the goal.

Offensively Dunn showed her speed on the flank, angled in some dangerous crosses in the early stages and generally had a solid performance.

She was one of two collegians on the 18-player U.S. squad. The other was Virginia junior Morgan Brian, who got her first international goal in only her second appearance. She scored two minutes after entering as a sub in the 70th minute.

Tar Heels No. 1: A string of upsets befell the top three men’s teams in the preseason NSCAA poll, as Indiana, Maryland and Georgetown each lost last weekend. As a result, North Carolina vaulted from No. 4 to the top spot in the coaches poll, although the Tar Heels rate No. 2 according to College Soccer News and Soccer America and No. 4 with Top Drawer Soccer.

It gives North Carolina a notable double, because the Tar Heels are a consensus No. 1 in the women’s polls for the third straight week. It’s the first time two teams from the same school were No. 1 in the NSCAA polls since Sept. 6, 2011, when the Tar Heels again topped the rankings.

Timely strike: Zach Mathers cut it pretty close for Duke on Friday in the first round of the John Rennie Nike Invitational. With the Blue Devils trailing 1-0, the sophomore midfielder followed up a deflected shot and scored the tying goal with 11 seconds remaining in regulation against Rutgers. After 20 scoreless minutes of overtime, Duke came away with a 1-1 tie against the Scarlet Knights.

In the second round, Mathers struck with plenty of time to spare. He scored Duke’s first goal in the 72nd minute, and the Blue Devils went on to a 2-0 win Sunday over Northeastern.

With those two goals, Mathers equaled his output from his freshman season.

“I’ve never scored a goal that late,” Mathers said of his buzzer-beater. “I was just hoping the ball would come to me. It bounced right to my feet.”

Looking ahead: This weekend’s schedule offers College Cup quality in the Duke Nike Classic, with four nationally ranked women’s teams: No. 1 North Carolina (4-0), No. 3 UCLA (4-0), No. 12 Duke (3-1) and No. 19 West Virginia (3-0-1). It’s Duke-WVU and UNC-UCLA on Friday at 6 and 8 p.m. UNC-WVU and Duke-UCLA follow Sunday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The N.C. State women host UNC Wilmington (0-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday. In men’s action, N.C. State (1-0) opens ACC play at home against Pittsburgh (0-0-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. Duke (1-0-1) visits No. 13 Maryland (0-1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and No. 1 North Carolina (2-0) is at No. 4 Notre Dame (1-0-1) at noon Sunday.

Coons: 919-829-4635

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service