Crosses and Kicks: ACC weekly soccer notes

Jeffrey A Camarati, UNC Sports Communications
Jeffrey A Camarati, UNC Athletic Communications

Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – During the regular season, the North Carolina Tar Heels men’s soccer team went to overtime four times with less than stellar results.

The Tar Heels did not score in extra time in any of the four matches, recording a loss and three ties.

They flipped the script in the postseason, however.

UNC twice was extended to double overtime but each time rose to the occasion, beating Florida Gulf Coast 3-2 and Providence 1-0.

Redshirt junior midfielder Drew Murphy scored the game-winner against the Friars last Friday, the first goal of his UNC career for the transfer from UC Santa Barbara.

The victory over Providence sends the ninth-seeded Tar Heels (14-3-3) to their seventh NCAA College Cup, where they will play fifth-seeded Stanford (14-3-4) at 8:45 p.m. Friday in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Cardinal is the reigning champion, led by since-departed U.S. national team member Jordan Morris.

Second-seeded Wake Forest (18-2-3) and seventh-seeded Denver (20-0-3) meet in the first semifinal at 6 p.m., with the winners squaring off at 2 p.m. Sunday for the title.

UNC and Wake did not play each other during the ACC campaign.

Denver is coached by Jamie Franks, who played for Wake’s 2007 NCAA champions.

He served as an assistant coach at Denver under Bobby Muuss and was promoted to head coach two years ago when Muuss was hired as the coach at Wake, where he had previously been an assistant (2001-07).

This will be UNC’s seventh trip to the College Cup, with the Tar Heels seeking their third championship.

They won it in 2001 and 2011, the latter in Carlos Somoano’s first year as head coach.

It marks the 16th consecutive year that an ACC team has made the College Cup and the 12th time that two or more ACC teams have done so.

Somoano was asked how the Tar Heels managed to stay so composed and mentally tough in the postseason with elimination looming at the first misstep.

Their only victory in regulation time was a 1-0 nail biter at Syracuse.

“The best solution to that is to recruit mentally tough players,” Somoano said.

“And we have them.”

He added, “We’ve paid the price a couple times this year for losing our concentration. But we’ve learned from it. That’s all you can ask as a coach, that you learn from your mistakes.”

Nine Tar Heels will be returning to their home state of Texas for the College Cup, including four of their top six scorers.

Redshirt seniors and twin brothers Tucker and Walker Hume, from San Angelo, start at forward and defender, respectively.

Tucker leads the team in scoring (7 goals, 4 assists, 18 points), while Walker (4-4-12) gives UNC a second 6-foot-5 target on setpieces.

Junior forward Zach Wright (5-7-17) is from Smithville, about 120 miles west of Houston.

Junior midfielder Alan Winn (3-4-10) hails from the Dallas suburb of Garland.

Five UNC reserves are from Texas: sophomore midfielder Martin Salas (Dallas), redshirt sophomore midfielder Andy Lopez (Mission), freshman forward Nathaniel Adamolekun (Spicewood), freshman forward Giovanni Montesdeoca (Dallas), and redshirt freshman goalkeeper Johan Welch (Richmond).

UNC women overachieve

Anson Dorrance has been coaching the women’s soccer team at UNC for 38 years and won 22 national championships.

But this season might have been his finest coaching effort of all.

His Tar Heels got on a late-season roll, fashioning a 10-game unbeaten run before falling in the semifinals of the College Cup to West Virginia 1-0 last Friday.

Since their stunning 1-0 loss at home to N.C. State on Sept. 16, the Tar Heels went 12-1-3 before falling to the Mountaineers.

Although certainly talented, UNC wasn’t stocked with the kind of All-America talent and experience of years past.

Five starters from the 2015 team were playing professionally this year, two projected starters redshirted to play in the U-20 Women’s World Cup, and yet another was lost to an ACL injury.

Dependent upon a heavy influx of freshmen, UNC finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the ACC but was rewarded with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament in recognition of its late-season success.

Even so, the Tar Heels greatly overachieved by reaching the College Cup for the 27th time, but the first since 2012, when they won their last NCAA title.

There were many key performers for UNC.

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Lindsey Harris, in her first year as the full-time starter, broke the 36-year-old school record for saves in a season with 96 and probably was the team’s MVP.

Freshman forwards Bridgette Andrzejewski (9-2-20) and Madison Schultz (5-1-11) helped fill a scoring void on a team missing its top four goal producers from a year ago.

Junior midfielders Annie Kingman (5-8-18) and Megan Buckingham (4-6-14) raised the level of their all-around play as they moved into starting roles.

The defensive back line of redshirt senior Hanna Gardner, redshirt junior Maggie Bill and sophomore Julia Ashley, which had never played together previously, coalesced into a solid unit that allowed only 0.60 goals per game, 15th best in the nation.

Current reflects on record falling

Former UNC goalkeeper Molly Current said she was watching online when Lindsey Harris eclipsed her 36-year-old school record for saves.

“Anson (Dorrance) said that record would never be broken,” Current joked in a recent telephone interview.

Current, a lawyer by training, works for a nonprofit housing agency in San Jose, which was the site of last week’s College Cup.

She lives 10 miles north in Milpitas, Calif., and was on hand to cheer on the Tar Heels in their 1-0 semifinal loss to West Virginia.

“It’s not often the College Cup is out here on the West Coast,” said Current, who rarely misses an opportunity to see the Tar Heels when they venture west.

Current set the season saves record in 1980, the second year of existence for the UNC women’s program.

“Soccer was different then,” she said.

“We were still emerging.”

She added, “I had a defense that was inconsistent, and I got shot on a lot. I didn’t hold the record because I was a great goalkeeper. I was a walk-on, and I was probably one of the weakest goalkeepers Anson’s ever had. But I was fast off the line, so he put me back there.”

More honors for Gibbons

The postseason honors continue to pour in for Duke senior defender Christina Gibbons, who added first-team All-America recognition and the Senior CLASS award to her haul.

The Cardinal Gibbons High alum garnered first-team All-America honors from the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) after leading Duke to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Gibbons, who is also one of 15 semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy — soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy – became only the third player in Duke history to land on the first team.

She joined Natasha Anasi (2011) and Kelly Walbert (1993-94) on that list.

The Senior CLASS Award, an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, is chosen by a vote of Division I women’s soccer coaches, national soccer media and fans.

It is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: classroom, community, character and competition.

Previously Gibbons was a first-team honoree on the All-ACC, All-Southeast Region, and Academic All-America teams.

She was joined by two other ACC players on the NSCAA All-America first team, Cary Green Hope and Virginia midfielder Alexis Shaffer, and Florida State goalkeeper Cassie Miller.

North Carolina freshman forward Bridgette Andrzejewski was a third-team All-America pick.

Several area players made the All-Southeast team with Gibbons.

Andrzejewski also was a first-team honoree, while UNC junior midfielder Megan Buckingham made the second team.

Third-team honors went to UNC sophomore defender Julia Ashley,

Duke senior forward Toni Payne and freshman forward Ella Stevens, and N.C. State freshman midfielder Tziarra King and freshman defender Kristina Schuster.

Final women’s rankings in

All seven ACC teams that earned bids to the NCAA women’s soccer tournament were ranked in the final NSCAA poll of the season.

Leading the way was College Cup semifinalist North Carolina (17-4-4) at No. 4, followed by No. 7 Duke (15-5-3), No. 11 Virginia (15-5-2), No. 12 Clemson (14-5-4), No. 14 Florida State (14-4-4), No. 21 Notre Dame (13-3-5), and No. 24 N.C. State (11-9-2).

N.C. State made the final poll for the first time since 1995 to conclude a breakout season for the Wolfpack and clinched its best final RPI in school history at 34, representing an improvement from its final RPI of 220 in 2015.

Picked to finish 13th in the ACC coaches’ preseason poll, the Pack earned its first NCAA tournament bid in 20 years and advanced to the round of 16.

Six ACC teams were ranked among the top 25 for all 13 weeks of the season, and 10 teams were ranked in at least one national poll for at least one week this season.

Tar Heels honored

Four members of the UNC men’s team earned recognition on the NSCAA All-South Region teams.

Freshman midfielder Cam Lindley made the first team, redshirt senior defender Walker Hume landed on the second team, and senior defender Colton Storm and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper James Pyle were listed on the third team.

Lindley, the ACC Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-ACC selection, is tied for third in the ACC with seven assists.

Storm was second-team All-ACC and owns three assists.

Hume is one of the highest-scoring defenders in the ACC with four goals and four assists, while Pyle ranks third in the nation with a 0.48 goals-against average and leads the ACC with 12 shutouts.

Moewes voted Duke MVP

Graduate student goalkeeper Robert Moewes was voted the most valuable player on the Duke men’s soccer team by his teammates and honored at the team’s end-of-season banquet last week.

Moewes, a transfer from Binghamton University where he was the two-time America East Goalkeeper of the Year, ranked second in the ACC with 3.94 saves per game.

Freshman defender Max Moser was named rookie of the year, junior forward Brian White was the offensive player of the year, and junior defenders Marcus Fjortoft and Carter Manley shared the defensive MVP award.

Fjortoft also received the John Rennie Award, named for the team’s former coach, for his contributions to Duke soccer on and off the field.

U-20 World Cup update

Despite winning its Group C and eliminating Mexico in the quarterfinals of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. team continued to struggle offensively.

The U.S. fell to North Korea 2-1 in the semifinals and was shut out by Japan 1-0 in the third-place game in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Four area players were members of the U.S. team.

Center back Taylor Otto of Apex played every minute of the six games in the World Cup and projects as a starter when she returns to UNC as a redshirt freshman next year.

Jessie Scarpa of UNC had started the previous four matches before coming off the bench against North Korea and Japan.

She will return to UNC as a redshirt junior in 2017 and was the Tar Heels’ second-leading scorer in 2015.

UNC commit Emily Fox started the last five matches and came off the bench in the other at outside midfielder.

Duke goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn did not see action for the U.S. and will be a redshirt freshman next fall.