Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina played its 900th women’s soccer game Sunday, and for the 800th time the Tar Heels presented coach Anson Dorrance with a victory.
Dorrance, the only coach in the program’s 38-year history, got the requisite postgame Gatorade shower from his players after the 2-1 victory over Wake Forest at Fetzer Field.
The UNC goals came from two sophomores, Ru Mucherera and Dorian Bailey, who had combined for one goal previously this season. Neither one was in the starting lineup Sunday.
After what he termed a “lackluster” first-half performance by his offensive starters, Dorrance got his reserve group into the game late in the half and was rewarded with the equalizer by Mucherera, her first collegiate goal.
“The reserves gave us a lift,” Dorrance said.
“It wasn’t just Ru and Dorian who scored who gave us a lift. Sash (Sarah Ashley Firstenberg) did a great job in the first half. In fact, she did such a good job we started her in the second half.”
Firstenberg’s one-touch pass set up Mucherera’s goal, and Dorrance also praised the play of reserves Jenny Chiu and Anna Kingman.
Defensively the Tar Heels had to cope with the absence of center back Maggie Bill, who was in Maryland at tryouts for the U.S. national lacrosse team.
Maya Worth, a starter at outside back last year who had moved to a starting forward role recently, opened on defense but re-aggravated a quad injury.
So Cannon Clough, a junior transfer from Charlotte, took over at center back and logged a season-high 60 minutes.
The victory moved the 11th-ranked Tar Heels (8-2-3, 3-1-2 ACC) into a four-way tie for third place in the conference standings with four matches remaining.
Dorrance, whose record as UNC women’s coach stands at 800-65-35, put the milestone victory into perspective.
“It’s a huge tribute to the extraordinary collection of athletes that I’ve recruited, but also how long I’ve been involved in the game,” he said.
“And I couldn’t be more excited than to be coaching this team. We had a hurricane practice on Saturday, trained in the rain on Navy (Field, an artificial surface) over here, and the team was just having a good time.
“I’m absolutely enjoying this season. We’re getting better. Just really thrilled to still be involved in coaching at my age. I’m still enjoying it.”
Christina Gibbons of Duke has been named one of 30 candidates for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes Division I student-athletes with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
CLASS is the acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School® and looks for student-athletes who use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
Four other ACC players were named to the list: defender Kirsten Crowley of Florida State, midfielder Abby Jones of Clemson, goalkeeper Morgan Stearns of Virginia, and forward Murielle Tiernan of Virginia Tech.
Gibbons, who played for Cardinal Gibbons High in Raleigh, has totaled three goals and a team-leading seven assists for Duke, ranked fourth in the latest coaches’ poll.
Many of her offensive contributions have come in the last three games, when she moved from defender to midfielder because of injuries in the Duke lineup.
She had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory at N.C. State on Sunday night. Gibbons also had an assist in the 1-0 win at Wake Forest on Thursday night and was named to TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Team of the Week.
Gibbons said the team’s depth at defender with sophomore Chelsea Burns and freshman Mia Gyau filling in allowed her to make the move.
She earned All-ACC and All-America honors last year as a defender.
“Chelsea’s come in at left back, where I usually play, and absolutely killed it,” Gibbons said.
“Mia’s also come in and played a significant amount of time at left back. So I think it just shows that we’re versatile. We have people who can play in a lot of different positions. For me it’s a lot of fun to go up there and experiment at outside mid. I’m still learning as I go, but it’s a lot of fun.”
The list of 30 CLASS nominees will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballots which will be distributed to nationwide to media, coaches, and fans.
The winner will be announced at the NCAA Women’s College Cup, scheduled for Dec. 2-4 in San Jose, Calif.
Quinn will seek redshirt
Canadian Olympian Rebecca Quinn was scheduled for foot surgery Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season for Duke. Quinn, a 5-foot-9 senior from Toronto, will apply for a medical redshirt in order to return next fall for a fifth year.
Quinn helped Canada to the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in August, playing a key role as a central defender. But she was never completely healthy after she returned to Duke, experiencing back and foot problems.
Her latest injury was a turf toe that had caused her to miss the last five games.
She missed three games last season with an ankle injury and two years ago played only half the season because of injuries.
“She hasn’t had a full season in her college career,” Duke coach Robbie Church said.
“And we just thought it was in her best interests. It was a really, really tough decision, because she loves her class that she’s played with, and she obviously thinks this team is very talented and can go far. And obviously she would add a lot to us. But obviously she will add a lot to us this year in training and on the sidelines, and she will add a lot to us next year.”
Quinn saw action in four matches this season as a central defender or holding midfielder, registering two assists.
She has totaled five goals and five assists for her career.
Quinn is the second player Duke has lost for the season because of injury.
Sophomore Kayla McCoy went down five games ago with a torn Achilles tendon.
Coastal men’s race tightens
Over the last seven years, the UNC men had dominated their series with Virginia, going unbeaten in nine meetings with a 6-0-3 record.
The Cavaliers last won against the Tar Heels in 2008, and when you consider that twice in that span (2009, 2014) UVa won the NCAA championship, it’s a surprising deficit.
UVa ended UNC’s run with a 2-1 victory Friday night in Chapel Hill.
It was the first ACC loss for eighth-ranked UNC and the first ACC win for No. 21 UVa, and coupled with No. 7 Wake Forest’s 2-2 tie at No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday deadlocked the race in the Coastal Division.
UNC and Notre Dame are each 3-1-1 in ACC play with three games remaining.
The Tar Heels visit Duke on Friday night and then host No. 15 Virginia Tech the following week before closing out the regular season at Notre Dame on Oct. 29.
UVa goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell, who hails from Todd, N.C., in Watauga County, put the victory into perspective.
“This is a pivot point for our season, I think,” said the 6-foot-3 junior, who was named the ACC co-defensive player of the week.
“We needed a win in the ACC, and Carolina’s a fantastic team; their record shows that this year. I mean this one was important to me for a lot of different reasons. We haven’t beaten these guys in a long time, either. There’s a big sense of relief and I think a lot of confidence to find here and move forward.”
Caldwell matched his season high with seven saves as the Tar Heels outshot the Cavaliers 22-5.
But UNC coach Carlos Somoano was more concerned with the two shots that went in for UVa than the ones that didn’t for UNC.
“In the end I think we did enough if we just don’t concede two (goals),” Somoano said.
“It was just poor, poor defensive plays on our part, and they took advantage of it. They deserve credit obviously. Bad lapses on defense. One goal should be enough to win this game, even if we could have scored more.”
Both of UVa’s goals came off long passes on counterattacks that caught UNC’s back line out of position.
On the winning goal in the 78th minute, Pablo Aguilar forced a turnover in UVa’s defensive third and got the ball to Nicko Corriveau, whose long ball sprung Wesley Wade between UNC defenders Alex Comsia and Walker Hume.
Wade waited for UNC goalkeeper James Pyle to come off his line and slipped the ball past him from 25 yards into the right corner of the net.
“We’ve got to have that closed up,” said Hume, who scored UNC’s goal in the first half.
“That’s just a lack of focus there and not being in the right starting spots. We know how to do it. We just took a play off, and they punished us for it.”
The Tar Heels got back on track Tuesday night when they routed UNC Asheville 7-0, behind freshman midfielder Mauricio Pineda’s hat trick.
Pyle got his eighth shutout of the season.
Top 100 freshmen
About one month before the NCAA tournament gets underway, TopDrawerSoccer.com has come out with its list of the top 100 freshmen in women’s college soccer.
With recruiting still an inexact science, it’s an attempt to rate those newcomers who have performed well at the next level.
The ACC teams in the Triangle were represented by nine freshmen.
N.C. State led the way with four: Kristina Schuster (14), Ricarda Walkling (24), Kia Rankin (36), and Tziarra King (51).
Duke was next with three, Ella Stevens (4), Olivia Erlbeck (30), and Mia Gyau (58).
UNC had Zoe Redei (25) and Bridgette Andrzejewski (46).
All nine players have been starters for their respective teams.
N.C. State has relied the most heavily on freshmen.
Six started Sunday night in a 3-1 loss to fourth-ranked Duke, and a season-high seven started last Thursday in a 1-1 tie with Louisville.