NCAA women's soccer tournament game a return for a former Duke player

November 20, 2013 

  • Gameday

    NCAA men’s soccer tournament

    First round

    Who: South Florida (8-3-9) at UNC (8-5-5)

    Where: Fetzer Field, Chapel Hill

    When: 7 p.m.

    Broadcast: GoHeelsTV.

    Tickets: $8 adults, $5 seniors and students ages 7 and older, UNC students free with valid UNC One Card.

    Key players: USF – Lindo Mfeka (5-4-14), Edwin Moalisi (5-4-14), Stiven Salinas (6-1-13), GK Brentton Muhammad (0.63 GAA, 8 shutouts). UNC – Tyler Engel (6-2-14), Cooper Vandermaas-Peeler (3-3-9), D Boyd Okwuonu, GK Brendan Moore (0.62 GAA, 9 shutots).

    How they got here: South Florida won the American Athletic Conference tournament championship; UNC received an at-large bid.

When the NCAA women’s soccer tournament resumes Friday with second-round action in Chapel Hill, one of the visiting coaches will find himself in familiar surroundings.

Texas Tech coach Tom Stone was a three-time All-ACC selection during his playing days at Duke (1984-87), and he scored probably the biggest goal in school history, netting the game-winner in the 1986 NCAA championship game to beat Akron 1-0. Current Duke men’s coach John Kerr was a teammate of Stone’s on that Blue Devils team, and they’ve been in touch this week.

“Maybe we’ll see some Duke blue mixed in with (Tech) red and black in the stands,” Stone said.

For the past seven years, Stone has been the head coach at Texas Tech, where he’s become the winningest coach in program history (78-50-13). His Lady Raiders (18-2-2) will face former Big 12 rival Texas A&M (18-4-1) at 3:30 p.m. Friday at UNC’s Fetzer Field. The other side of the bracket pits No. 1 seed UNC (18-4) against Indiana (15-6-1) at 6 p.m. Friday’s winners will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s a been a special year obviously, with 18 wins and 17 shutouts,” Stone said of Tech. “It’s a senior-laden team with a bunch of experience, and we’re reaping the benefit of that.”

He’s also thrilled to be back in the Triangle. “I love this part of the country,” Stone said. “When we saw these games would be in Chapel Hill, we were excited about the prospect of going there.”

UNC is the reason. With 22 national championships – including last year – the Tar Heels are considered royalty in women’s soccer. “One of the most impressive things about Carolina in the last five years is that the talent pool has gotten so big, and so many teams have become national contenders,” Stone said. “But they’ve withstood the growth of women’s soccer and the expansion of the player pool, and they’re still winning.”

This year’s UNC team is another threat to win it all. “They’re fast, explosive and love to attack,” Stone said. “Obviously Crystal Dunn is a big deal. Her health will be a big factor.”

Dunn, last year’s national player of the year and the ACC offensive player of the year this season, has missed the last two games with a leg injury. UNC has been mum on the center midfielder’s availability this week.

Goals at a premium: Don’t expect a high-scoring affair when the UNC men host South Florida in the first round of the NCAA soccer tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Tar Heels (8-5-5) have scored more than one goal only once in their last 14 games, while the Bulls (8-3-9) have done so twice in their last 10 games. USF beat Connecticut for the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship last week 6-5 on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 0-0 tie in regulation and overtime.

UNC goalkeeper Brendan Moore ranks 11th nationally with a 0.62 goals-against average, while USF’s Brentton Muhammad is tied for 12th at 0.63. Thursday’s winner will play at 12th-seeded UC Irvine at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Home sweet home: The last place Duke women’s coach Robbie Church figured to be playing this week was at home. Yet that’s where the unseeded Blue Devils find themselves. And if they can emerge from their upset-filled bracket, they would be within sight of a berth in the College Cup.

Three of the four teams that played at home in Duke’s pod lost in the first round last weekend. Duke advanced past Colorado College on penalty kicks 4-3 after they tied 1-1, Arkansas upset Oklahoma State 2-1, and St. John’s took out third-seeded Central Florida 3-1. Only No. 2 seed Florida held form, beating Jacksonville 2-0. Florida should have been the site for the second- and third-round games, but the Gators opted not to host. That left Duke as the next highest seed, and the Blue Devils jumped at the chance to bring everyone to Koskinen Stadium this weekend.

On Friday Arkansas (14-8-0) will play St. John’s (12-5-3) at 5 p.m., and Duke (8-8-5) will take on Florida (18-4-1) at 7:30.

“Florida did not put in a bid to host,” Church explained. “Their field is a little big smaller than some other ones, and they’ve gone out in the second and third rounds and wanted to try something different. Central Florida got beat, and it would have gone there. So it ended up coming our way. Now we’ve got to take advantage of it.”

The Gators have been eliminated at home in the playoffs in each of the last three years, including in a penalty kick shootout by Duke in 2010. Last year Florida beat Duke 3-2 in overtime during the regular season in a tournament at UNC.

Duke was a middling 3-3-2 at home this season, but if the Blue Devils can beat Florida on Friday and Arkansas or St. John’s on Sunday, they would go to the NCAA quarterfinals. That could set up a rematch with No. 1 seed Virginia Tech to go to the College Cup, which will be at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Duke tied the Hokies 1-1 this season.

Sister act: NCAA tournaments often create interesting matchups, but this one will hit close to home for the Shaffer family in Cary.

When Georgetown plays at No. 1 seed Virginia on Friday night in a second-round match, sisters Ashley and Alexis Shaffer will be on opposing benches. Ashley is a junior forward at Georgetown who has seen action in 14 games, with five starts. Alexis is a freshman midfielder at UVa and has played in all 22 games, totaling three goals and six assists to tie for sixth in scoring for the Cavaliers with 12 points.

The sisters were both standouts at Green Hope High in Cary.

Coons: 919-829-4635

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