By Daniel Wallace
The Baylor soccer team will face a North Carolina program that boasts a history of winning national championships in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Bears (15-3-3) will square off against the No. 18 ranked Tar Heels (12-5-1) at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Gainesville, Fla.
Since the NCAA women’s soccer tournament started in 1982, the Tar Heels have won 20 out of the 28 national championships and 20 of 22 ACC Titles.
The Bears won the first NCAA tournament game in Baylor program history on Saturday, beating Texas State 3-0.
With North Carolina’s history of success in the tournament, the Bears know they are being viewed as the underdog in this game. That is a mentality that they embrace and they are just excited that their season is continuing.
“North Carolina, that’s all you hear about when it comes to women’s soccer,” senior defender Staz Salinas said. “You hear a bunch of statistics every time, how many national championships they’ve won, what they do in the ACC, always winning, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play them so we are just going to give it everything we have.”
Although the Bears know they are not expected to win this game, they believe they can go into Gainesville and come out with a win.
Junior midfielder Hanna Gilmore said the key will be to play with an edge, just like they have been doing all year.
She said she respects the program but is looking at the game as just another normal game against another good team.
“Our edge is what keeps us above everybody,” Gilmore said. “We are all average without our edge. That’s just something we have to keep in mind when playing them. We can’t bow down to them, because it is a good program. We want to go out there and have an edge and just play them as hard as we play anybody else — the same way we played Texas State.”
Gilmore also said that at this point in the season, the team cannot take anybody too seriously nor can they take any team too lightly.
Head Coach Marci Jobson is familiar with the North Carolina program, and said she has tremendous respect for it.
She actually knows head coach Anson Dorrance on a personal level, she said.
She has known him since she was young, has participated in one of his soccer camps and was recruited by him when she was a player.
He is on her resume as a reference, and she said the North Carolina head coach has been really helpful in her career as a player and a coach.
Dorrance is in his 34th year coaching women’s soccer at UNC and his teams are 109-8-1 in the NCAA tournament.
Jobson said although this year has actually been a relatively down year for the Tar Heels, they are still a team capable of hoisting the NCAA trophy for the 21st time.
“Every young girl grows up thinking about Chapel Hill,” she said. “Anson Dorrance is a legend. That’s no secret. Even today, UNC lost four or five games this year but people still know this team could win a national championship this year.”
Jobson said the most important part of the game for the Bears will not even involve the physicality of the game.
She said she believes with the right mental attitude her team has a chance to knock off the Tar Heels.
“The biggest thing it comes down to for us is mentality,” she said. “You are going to have two teams that are built on a promise of mentality, toughness, heart and fight. We just have to bring that quality.”
The winner of the Baylor/North Carolina game will play the winner of Florida and Central Florida at noon Sunday in Gainesville.