WILMINGTON, NC August 12, 2014 – With the start of the regular season less than two weeks away, the UNCW women’s soccer team takes on national power North Carolina Tuesday in the first of two exhibition games in five days against in-state opponents at the UNCW Soccer Stadium.
The Seahawks and No. 4-ranked Tar Heels go head-to-head at 6 p.m. (gates open at 5 p.m.). Tickets are $7 for adults and $2 for 15-under. UNCW students, faculty and staff will be admitted free.
“It’s such an honor to play UNC Chapel Hill,” said veteran UNCW Head Coach Paul Cairney. “They’ve won 21 national championships and we’re just hoping to stay with them and deal with their defensive pressure and try to learn a lot about our team against one of the best teams in the country.”
Cairney’s club went 9-10 last season and finished fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Seahawks welcome back nine starters and 23 letter winners off a team that lost only three seniors – Meg Kiser, Natalie Winslow and Nicole Costa.
UNCW was picked to finish fifth in last week’s preseason balloting by the league’s coaches. The Seahawks trailed Hofstra, James Madison, William & Mary and Northeastern in the poll.
The Seahawks held their first practice last Tuesday and have been working out daily in poor weather and humidity.
“With a small incoming loss and a lot of returners, our kids have been on the same page pretty quickly,” said Cairney, who owns 174 victories in 19 seasons with the program. “We do have some injuries we’re dealing with right now.”
Following Tuesday’s outing, the Seahawks entertain Duke on Saturday in another 6 p.m. kick-off. The regular season opener is Friday, Aug. 22, at N.C. State.
Cairney said: “We still haven’t settled on a starting lineup and a starting system. We’ll probably play two different systems Tuesday night. We’ll split goalkeeper. They’re both doing a great job of battling and fighting each other tooth and nail and it’s been interesting to watch.
“Some of the returning players have done a great job during the summer. They’re better, fitter and stronger. Hopefully, we can learn from what we do in this game to get us ready for Duke on Saturday.”
The Seahawks stunned the Tar Heels, 2-1, two years ago on Sept. 9, 2012, in an exhibition game that drew a standing room only crowd. Senior forward Stephanie Rose converted a penalty kick in the 83rd minute to snap a 1-all tie and lift UNCW over visiting UNC.
Rose’s decisive tally came moments after the Jacksonville, N.C., product collected the ball just outside the right side of the 18-yard box and worked her way towards the middle of the field before being tackled by a UNC Chapel Hill defender just inside the top of the box.
Cairney discounted any incentive on the part of the Tar Heels, who went 20-5 one year ago, in Tuesday’s match. “The personnel is different on both teams. They have a tremendous group of players and a strong freshman class. It’s going to be a challenge for us. We just hope to keep it close.”
Coach Anson Dorrance’s Tar Heels reached the NCAA quarterfinals last year and finished fifth in the NSCAA poll. The Tar Heels are ranked fourth in the preseason behind UCLA, Florida State and Virginia.
Junior forward Summer Green of UNC is one of 35 NCAA Division I players expected to contend for the 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy, the most prestigious individual award presented by the NCAA. Green is a member of Team USA’s U-20 World Cup squad.