Texas soccer looks forward to season opener versus coach’s alma mater

Aaron Torres

It’s been nearly four years since Texas head coach Angela Kelly came to Austin, about 14 years since North Carolina played in Austin and more than two decades since Kelly donned Carolina blue.

“It’s really special,” Kelly said of playing her alma mater. “Anson Dorrance, Bill Palladino mean the world to myself and Kristine [Lilly] and Mia [Hamm] and our teammates Tisha Venturini-Hoch, and it was a special group of individuals for us, and it’s going to be neat to have everyone back in one place for us this weekend.”

No. 5 North Carolina comes to Austin Friday. Ohio State arrives Sunday.

“This is what you would consider a Final Four kind of weekend,” Kelly said.

The stakes are high because the Tarheels are coming to Austin for the third time. The first time UNC came to Austin was 2000, when the Longhorns suffered a 9–2 drubbing at the hands of the Tarheels. One year later, Texas had a better outing, but still lost the game 1–0.

“It’s a great opportunity of us to play them,” senior goalkeeper Abby Smith said. “They’re on the highest throne. I don’t know how to say it — they’re pretty up there.”

Smith may not be sure how to articulate how good UNC is on a historical level, but her coach can help her with that.

“They’ve been the perennial national champions for the past decade, two decades, decade and a half,” Kelly said. “I think they’ve won 21 national championships, so they’re going to be hungry, they’re going ready, and we’re excited for
the challenge.”

The game against the Tarheels will be challenging. The weekend overall will be a test— a test to see how good Texas can be this year after making the NCAA tournament last season. Returning seven starters but losing six seniors, Texas will have to play freshmen early on in the season.

The tests are Friday and Sunday. Whether Texas has studied enough will be seen.