Because they played three of their first four matches on the road, the N.C. State men were flying under the ACC soccer radar in the early going. Fifth-year head coach Kelly Findley hadn’t scheduled the team’s home opener until the fifth game of the season, although those plans changed when an early match was moved from College of Charleston to Raleigh because of bad weather.
However, the Wolfpack has treated the home fans to some satisfying results lately, getting a golden goal Friday from sophomore defender Caleb Duvernay with 1:47 left in the second overtime to beat Boston College 2-1 and following up Tuesday night with a 2-1 defeat of previously unbeaten Wofford.
The Wolfpack (5-1, 1-0 ACC) hasn’t had a start this strong since going 6-0 in 2012 but faces a tough match Friday at No. 6 Virginia (3-0-2, 0-0-1), a team State has beaten only once (2010) in the past 11 seasons.
Balance has carried State, with four players sharing the goal-scoring lead with two apiece and five points. “I do think we need our forwards to get on the scoresheet more,” Findley said. “But they’re creating plenty of chances. I know they will come.”
Fast starts: The Wolfpack isn’t the only area team to get out of the gate quickly. Both UNC teams are still unbeaten, both Duke teams have solidified themselves in the national rankings, and the N.C. State women (4-4) have already doubled their victory total of a year ago.
The No. 16 Duke men (4-1-1, 0-0-1 ACC), despite falling from the unbeaten ranks Tuesday in a 3-0 loss to No. 24 UNC Wilmington, are off to their best start since 2009. The Blue Devils visit No. 14 Clemson (4-1-1, 0-1) on Friday.
The No. 3 UNC men (4-0-1, 1-0) host No. 2 Notre Dame (4-1-1, 1-0) in the marquee match of the week, which will be televised nationwide at 5 p.m. Friday on ESPNU. The No. 3 UNC women (7-0-1) travel to No. 9 Virginia Tech (8-0-1) for their ACC opener Saturday.
The No. 22 Duke women (5-2-1), who host Appalachian State (4-2-1) on Thursday, open ACC play at home Sunday against the reigning NCAA champion, No. 2 Florida State (6-1). The N.C. State women, who were scheduled to play at Coastal Carolina (3-4) on Wednesday night, begin their ACC schedule at Pittsburgh (6-1-1) on Sunday.
Alumni assemble: Former Duke men’s coach John Rennie, who retired following the 2007 season, was among the soccer alumni who turned out last Friday to celebrate 80 years of Duke soccer and watch the unbeaten Blue Devils tie fifth-ranked Virginia 2-2 in their ACC opener.
Two of the former Duke standouts in attendance at Koskinen Stadium were 1981 team captain Chris Sturdy and two-time captain Chris Loftus (2005-06).
Sturdy recalled that he was a member of a players committee that interviewed Rennie as a prospective hire in 1979. Rennie, who had been head coach at Columbia, would spend 29 years at Duke and log a program-record 410 victories, including the 1986 NCAA championship.
“Coach was the one who upgraded the whole program, and the ACC, too,” said Sturdy, now retired from the banking industry.
Rennie’s success in the 1980s at Duke spurred other ACC schools – notably North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia – to upgrade their own programs and become more competitive with traditional ACC powers Clemson and Maryland. That Rennie did so largely with American rather than foreign players became a blueprint for ACC success that continues to this day.
“We played under a legendary coach,” said Loftus, now the chief operating officer of a hospital in Sarasota, Fla.
USWNT update: Former North Carolina All-American Crystal Dunn has been added to the roster of the U.S. Women’s National Team, which continues its post-World Cup Victory Tour with matches Thursday in Detroit (7:30 p.m., FS1) and Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., (3 p.m., ESPN2) against Haiti.
Dunn joins six other former Tar Heels on the team – defenders Meghan Klingenberg, Whitney Engen and Lori Chalupny, midfielders Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Dunn, the leading scorer in the NWSL this season and likely league MVP, was left off the World Cup roster because of a lingering injury, but she is expected to be part of the U.S. team for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. That leaves U.S. coach Jill Ellis with something of a dilemma. Ellis will have to reduce her 23-player World Cup roster to 18, the Olympic limit.
The announced retirements of Chalupny, Shannon Boxx and Lauren Holiday clear three spots, and Ellis won’t carry a third goalkeeper, meaning either Harris or Alyssa Naeher would be out.
But at least one more player would have to be left home – two if Dunn is added to the squad.
It was thought that veterans Christie Rampone, 40, and Abby Wambach, 35, also would be retiring, but Wambach recently announced that she wanted to play in the Olympics one last time. Rampone hasn’t said anything about her plans.
The U.S. defeated Costa Rica on the first two stops of the Victory Tour, 8-0 in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16 and 7-2 in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Aug. 19.