For the nation’s most successful soccer program, there is no looking back, and this year senior midfielder Annie Kingman and her team aren’t sparing a moment reminiscing on the successes of their 2016 College Cup run. Instead, Anson Dorrance’s team is looking to cast themselves in a new light.
“We did so well last year, but we had a lot of luck on our side and a lot of scrappiness, and that’s what brought us to the Final Four, propelled us through,” Kingman said. “This year, I think we can become a real soccer-dominant team as opposed to just a fighting team. I think we can play some really pretty soccer this year. I’m excited for that.”
Dorrance’s team will be living the moniker, ‘the beautiful game.’ This is going to be a team worth traveling to witness, because despite not being able to play on Fetzer Field during the 2017 campaign, there are no concerns for how that will affect the level of play.
“It’s definitely a bummer not to have a home field where you know your friends are going to be able to come watch you,” Kingman said.
The senior didn’t dwell on the loss for long, though.
"Then again, it’s all about the soccer," she said. "It doesn’t really matter where we play, it’s about the team and having fun together and doing well."
The Tar Heels are going to be equipped with real experience on the field this year. With Kingman taking on the role of attacking center midfielder, the return of redshirt senior Joanna Boyles –who sat out last season due to an ACL tear– as well as the return of redshirt junior Jessie Scarpa, who was unavailable last season while playing for the US U20 team, these Heels are not lacking experience or talent.
“Having Jo (Boyles) back is going to be a huge advantage,” Kingman said. “When she came in the spring she got to play maybe 20 minutes and she scored and assisted. She had a part in both of the goals we scored in the spring.”
The impact of the experienced players mixed with the fresh legs of the incoming class has already proved to be a successful strategy for Carolina after their spring campaign. As a result, the initiation period to the pace and physicality of college soccer is a worry of the past, especially given that all but two of the incoming class were enrolled and playing with the Heels in the spring.
It turns out the real problem for Carolina this year won’t be injuries or lack of depth, rather, it will be finalizing the roster for games.
“We had to do this exercise over summer where we looked at who we thought would be our starting 11, the 20 who would make it on the field in any given game and the 20 who would travel,” Kingman said. “It was nearly impossible to get it into one identical idea because we have so much talent this year. It’s going to be insane."
"We could go 22 players deep in every game, and so that’s going to be super fun to see if we can really just take over and dominate this year."
The women’s soccer team will not be left wanting when it comes to the available talent on the roster. Not only have most of the incoming class spent their spring acclimating to the Carolina Way when it comes to women’s soccer, two of the incoming athletes are off playing for the English national team and will join the Heels in late August, adding even more to an already overflowing roster.
“Our first years are looking great," Kingman said. "We also have two international girls coming in at the end of August from England; they’re currently playing for the English national team at the Euros. They’re going to be a huge asset for us. It’s going to be interesting because we’ll have an idea of what our starting lineup is going to be for our first game against Duke, and then whenever they show up it’s going to be like, ‘Alright, back to the drawing board.’ I’m sure they’re going to challenge to start and they’re going to push us.”
This will be the Californian’s final season at Carolina, and Kingman is looking forward to every day she gets to spend here in Chapel Hill and wearing that Carolina blue jersey every week.
“I’m going to focus on trying to live in the moment and not let this last season slip by, if that’s possible,” Kingman said. “We’ve been talking about how we’re just so happy to be in this spot where we still have the whole season ahead of us, and we’re just starting preseason and nothing is slipping by yet, but I just know once it starts, it’s going to fly by. I’m going to have to take every practice and every game like it’s going to be my last because soon it will be my last. I’m not going to be with my best friends playing the sport I love for that much longer. I’ll just try to live in the moment and enjoy every minute of it.”