The Tea

This is nothing new.

40 seasons later, and UNC is still the dominant force in NCAA women’s soccer.

The result was more of the same when No. 2 Carolina (2-0) beat No. 8 Duke (1-1) Sunday night in the Carolina Nike Classic.  

Except this time, this season, there were two notable differences.

First was the stadium, a 4,200-seat facility that was sold out to see the 2-0 victory.

The UNC Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium opened March 2, 2019, much to the delight of Tar Heel head coach Anson Dorrance and the rest of the team after playing two years at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

“We try to impress people with the fact that we have a wonderful history, and now it’s not just a wonderful history, but it’s a wonderful future,” Dorrance said after Sunday’s game. “A lot of that is built with this fabulous stadium.”

There was plenty for those in the fabulous stadium to cheer for, most notably a defense that, two games into the season, has yet to concede even a shot on goal after UNC blanked Indiana 3-0 on Thursday in the first game of the showcase. 

“It’s really a team effort,” defender Morgan Goff said. “It’s not just the defensive line that defends. It’s the whole team.”

Also cheer-inducing was the opening goal of the game, a header from freshman Alexis Strickland off a looping Hallie Klanke cross with seconds remaining in the first half.

“It was amazing,” Strickland said of her first career goal. “It felt like slow motion, honestly.”

Then there was the Duke own-goal in the 76th minute that sealed the Tar Heel win as a Goff cross careened off a defender’s head into the net.

The second new element of this year’s team is the energy inspired by the champion U.S. national team, as Tar Heel players ran toward the student section after the second goal to celebrate with fans.

“With this new stadium we decided we had to celebrate a little more,” Goff said. “We’re trying to involve the crowd a little bit more.”

Alex Morgan, one of the players on that World Cup championship squad, was the inspiration at the end of the game when the entire team faced the home fans and pantomimed sipping tea as the alma matter played.

Duke, though was the motivation. An Instagram feud between the two teams broke out when UNC defender and Brit Lotte Wubben-Moy posted a story about her tea preferences. A Duke player responded, and the team rallied behind Wubben-Moy and her two British compatriots playing for Carolina this year.

So UNC is dominant again and will be seeking to win the program’s 22nd national championship after falling in the final last season.

That’s not new.

What is new, though, is the high-energy and creative celebrations of this year’s team, which will be frequently showcased in a shiny new stadium.

And that’s the tea.