By Tim Nash
It has to be some kind of soccer factory, doesn’t it? The University of North Carolina women’s soccer program must be a place that attracts the top young players in the country, puts them on an assembly line and re-shapes them into the type of player that adds to the bottom line — wins and trophies.
There’s no other explanation, is there? The factory must be dripping with stress, littered with stories of failure and flame-outs. Somewhere within that soccer mill, there must be a dark room where all the pieces not good enough are tossed aside and forgotten.
How else could one school win so much and lose so little? Come on, 800 wins? In just 38 years? That’s an average of 21 wins a year for four decades. The players can’t be having any fun. It must be like a boot camp. And we are expected to believe that all those games were won by one coach? Forget it.
That last part is true. The rest are myths. On October 10 in a come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest, Anson Dorrance won his 800th game as head coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
“And it was in 900 games,” says Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, a former Tar Heel now the head coach of the University of Central Florida. “That makes it more impressive. It’s unbelievable.”
Nine-hundred games exactly. Dorrance’s career record after the Oct. 10 win was 800-65-35.
Think that’s unbelievable? Here’s a sampling of the program’s success: In the 90s, the Tar Heels had a record of 238-7-3. They once went 101 games without losing. In a stretch between 1990 and 1992, UNC won 92 straight games. His 1987 team outscored its 24 opponents 98-2, and one of the goals they allowed was an own-goal. Carolina has won 21 NCAA championships and there have only been 31 of them. In 1992, the Tar Heels went 25-0, scored 132 goals and allowed 11, never scoring more than nine in any game. Over the history of the program, the team has scored 2,869 more goals than it has allowed.
It starts and ends with Dorrance, a highly intelligent, ultra-competitive, self-diagnosed introvert who happened to become a soccer coach and found more than enough to keep himself challenged and engaged by working with a revolving group of college-aged athletes. He has found ways to get his players to perform at their best for both themselves and the team at the same time.