Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It was billed as the Carolina Nike Classic.
But the four-game women’s soccer invitational that kicked off the season last week for host North Carolina could have been renamed the Carolina Alumni Classic.
Three of the four visiting teams had UNC alums coaching on the bench.
Amy (Burns) Kiah, who played at UNC in 1992-93, began her 18th year as head coach at Wofford, which lost to third-ranked Duke 9-1.
Duke had assistant coach Carla (Werden) Overbeck (UNC 1986-89).
Central Florida was led by Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak (UNC 1995-98).
Her husband Tim Sahaydak, a former UNC men’s player (1995-96), is UCF’s associate head coach.
Roberts Sahaydak and Overbeck were teammates on the U.S. squads that won gold medals in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1999 World Cup.
This was the second time that Roberts Sahaydak coached against UNC and her former coach, Anson Dorrance.
The first meeting was a 4-0 loss in 2007 at Richmond, Va., when Roberts Sahaydak was a rookie head coach at VCU.
She’s now in her fourth year at UCF.
“It’s really a dream come true to be a head coach of a Division I team and bring our team here and play against my alma mater and Anson, who I have so much respect for,” she said after a 2-0 loss as part of opening-weekend play at her alma mater.
She had time to exchange hugs with Kiah and Overbeck as well between games.
“It’s like a sorority being part of Carolina women’s soccer,” Roberts Sahaydak said.
“Any time you get a chance to see a former teammate or anyone who’s gone through this program or been part of this dynasty, it’s really something special. It’s a sisterhood that I’m really proud to be part of. It was great seeing Carla and seeing Amy.”
“It definitely was exciting,” Kiah said.
“It was great to see everybody. We’ve got a few in the stands that I can’t wait to get back and see. It’s really good to be back here.”
On game day, the Sahaydaks went for a morning jog around the UNC campus and decided to pop into the soccer offices and say hello to Dorrance.
“They came in, and Tiffany wasn’t even aware of this, but we’ve got her pictures all over McCaskill Soccer Center,” Dorrance recounted.
“We’ve got a picture of her in her professional uniform with the Carolina Courage. We’ve got a picture of her in her national team uniform when she played in the Olympics and the World Cup. She was just shocked that we honored her in this fashion.
“We haven’t forgotten about her, and obviously we’re very proud of her. She’s a fantastic young coach, and she’s going to do nothing but get better.”
“It was so nice to see the photos up there,” Roberts Sahaydak said.
“It brings back great memories. It’s been a very nostalgic trip for me.”
Unfortunately for Roberts Sahaydak, she was unable to pick up her milestone 100th career coaching victory on her homecoming.
The Knights dropped a 3-1 decision to Duke to end the weekend.
Gardner ends drought
UNC defender Hanna Gardner got her first goal since her freshman year.
The redshirt senior from East Chapel Hill High used her head and some shoulder to nudge home a high, arcing service from Annie Kingman in the seventh minute of ninth-ranked UNC’s 3-0 win over Charlotte.
Gardner’s score would stand up until the Tar Heels broke the contest open with two goals in the final 10 minutes.
Gardner tallied two goals her freshman year, the second one coming in a 4-1 victory over Penn State in the 2012 NCAA championship game.
“That was so long ago, it’s pretty irrelevant at this point,” Gardner said.
“I’m pretty focused on this year. It feels good to get one into the back of the net though, because it’s been a while.”
Devils’ hot start
In opening with two victories in the Carolina Nike Classic, Duke put 12 goals on the scoreboard.
The Blue Devils matched a school goal-scoring record in the 9-1 season-opening rout of Wofford and set another record with nine different goal scorers in the process.
Senior Toni Payne, junior Imani Dorsey and freshman Ella Stevens posted two goals apiece in two games, but Stevens’ effort against Wofford was worthy of a SportsCenter highlight clip.
She received a cross from Taylor Racioppi with her left leg, volleyed the ball up in the air, and whirled around to drive it into the goal with her right foot before the ball touched the ground.
“I’ve never done that in a game before,” Stevens said.
“But at home I loved to go out in the garage and hit balls against the wall and just became comfortable with it. So I think when the ball came across it was just instinct. Luckily I got a good touch on it and was able to put it away.”
Duke coach Robbie Church didn’t think luck had anything to do with it.
“For me it looked phenomenal,” he said.
“It looked fantastic. Ella’s a very, very talented young lady. She has an absolutely brilliant touch.”