A year ago, North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance made two moves in the postseason that would pay off with the program’s 22nd national championship.
He shifted Crystal Dunn to center midfield from center defender and made then-senior Adelaide Gay his full-time goalkeeper.
This year Dorrance has decided that senior Anna Sieloff will take over in goal full time. Sieloff responded by tying her career high of five saves in third-seeded UNC’s 1-0 victory over Boston College on Sunday in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. The Tar Heels (17-3-0) will take on second-seeded Florida State (16-1-3) at 8 p.m. in Friday’s semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, after the 5:30 p.m. game between top-seeded Virginia (20-0-0) and fourth-seeded Virginia Tech (15-3-2).
Dorrance said the decision to start Sieloff over sophomore Bryane Heaberlin, who had split time in goal all season, came down to results. Sieloff allowed only one goal against ACC competition, against Virginia, the No. 1 team in the nation.
“I like the fact that she’s a senior,” Dorrance said. “I like the fact that last year she sacrificed everything and actually sat in the stands in the final four, which I thought was a tremendous example of character without complaint. So I’m glad she has her chance, and she’s playing really well right now.
“This does not detract from Bry Heaberlin, who has outstanding qualities. But ultimately when you’re evaluating a goal scorer, it’s, ‘How many balls does this person put in the back of the net?’ So how many does this person let in? I think allowing one goal in 13 halves against every team in the ACC, that’s a pretty good endorsement.”
Dorrance said third-ranked Florida State poses a difficult matchup for his fourth-ranked Tar Heels. The Seminoles have won the past three meetings, all by 1-0 scores, and UNC’s last victory in the series came in 2011.
“They’ve had some excellent teams,” Dorrance said. “So have we. I think what they bring to the table is just a little more sophistication and experience. Their foreign kids grew up watching the game and have a little more polish. My kids have a little more platform of athleticism. Their experience has been the margin for them in our recent contests. It can turn on their experience or our athleticism.”
The postseason will run through Cary. WakeMed Soccer Park is also the site for the NCAA women’s College Cup, soccer’s final four, on Dec. 6 and 8.
ACC men’s tournament: The ACC men’s regular season wraps up Friday night, and seven teams – Maryland, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Clemson, UNC, Virginia and Boston College – already have punched their tickets for the conference tournament.
That leaves four teams scrambling for the final berth – Duke (7-4-6, 2-3-5 ACC, 11 points), Syracuse (10-6-1, 3-6-1, 10), N.C. State (7-5-4, 2-5-3, 9) and Virginia Tech (4-7-5, 1-4-5, 8).
Here are the scenarios:
• Duke is in with a win at Clemson or losses by Syracuse and N.C. State.
• Syracuse is in with a win at Wake Forest and a loss or tie by Duke, or a tie at Wake coupled with a Duke loss and an N.C. State loss or tie.
• N.C. State is in with a win over UNC, a loss by Duke, and a tie or loss by Syracuse.
• Virginia Tech needs a win over Maryland, a loss by Duke, a tie by Syracuse, and a loss by N.C. State. The Hokies hold the tiebreaker in a three-way tie with Duke and Syracuse. The Hokies also could get in with a Syracuse loss instead of a tie but would need to make up a five-goal differential against Duke, unlikely in one game.
Postseason honors: Maryland forward Patrick Mullins should repeat as the ACC men’s offensive player of the year. The senior from New Orleans leads the ACC in scoring with 13 goals and 31 points, with five assists. There’s a crowded field for defensive player honors, but UNC center defender Boyd Okwuonu gets the edge here. Although the Tar Heels have a new goalkeeper this year, they again lead the ACC in goals-against average (0.55 per game). That’s no coincidence.
The rookie of the year should be freshman forward Emil Ekblom of Syracuse. He’s second in goals and tied for second in points in the ACC (9-3-21).
Coach of the year right now is a coin toss between Maryland’s Sasho Cirovski and Notre Dame’s Bobby Clark. Their teams are tied for the conference lead at 6-1-3. Both have a goal differential of plus-8, so first place will go right down to the wire.
Looking ahead: There’s a lot at stake for local teams in Friday night’s ACC men’s regular-season finales. Duke travels to Clemson (10-5-2, 5-3-2), and UNC (7-3-5, 4-1-5) hosts N.C. State, both at 7 p.m. Duke and State are on the bubble for the ACC tournament, while UNC is playing for a home game in the ACC quarterfinals. The Tar Heels and Clemson are tied with 17 points for fourth place.
The ACC men’s tournament begins Tuesday with the quarterfinals at campus sites. The semifinals and final are Nov. 15 and 17 at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md.
The ACC women will learn their NCAA tournament situation when the pairings are announced during the selection show at 4:30 p.m. Monday on NCAA.com. Don’t be surprised if nine of 14 ACC teams make the field.