There isn’t a player on William and Mary’s roster who was on the team when it last faced North Carolina back in 2007. That September, a late score for the College gave the Tribe its first victory over the Tar Heels. But there’s no question that since the announcement that the two teams would face off in the first round of the NCAA tournament — thanks to the advent of game film and scouting reports — head coach John Daly’s squad has gotten to know the 2011 UNC team very, very well.
The College (17-2-2, 10-1 CAA) will head down to Chapel Hill just about a week removed from its 1-0 overtime conference championship triumph over Virginia Commonwealth, a team that dealt the Tribe its only CAA loss of the season. If the Tribe wants to make any kind of NCAA tournament run, though, the road only gets tougher.
As far as the respective conferences go, Saturday’s match is akin to David and Goliath. UNC (11-5-1, 6-3-1 ACC) is among nine ACC teams to make the tournament, while the Tribe is the CAA’s lone representative.
The Tribe enters the match red hot, having won 14 of its last 15, outscoring opponents 34-6 over that span and 52-13 over the entire season.
The Tribe has had such success largely due to the play of junior midfielder Mallory Schaffer, who led the CAA in goals with 17, game-winners with six and points with 40. Schaffer, recently named the CAA player of the year, scored each of the College’s goals — two in its semifinal win over Delaware and the only goal in the final match — in the conference tournament. The Tribe has also been bolstered by stellar defensive play.
Sophomore defender Tara Connors was named the conference tournament’s most outstanding player, while junior goalkeeper Katherine Yount led the CAA with 21 shutouts, posting the conference’s lowest goals against average.
On the other side of the pitch, UNC will look to end the longest losing streak in program history, currently at three games. Most recently, the Tar Heels fell to the eventual ACC champion, Florida State, 1-0 in the first round of the conference tournament. The team finished third in the ACC.
The Tar Heels — the region’s third seed — pack some firepower of their own, however. All-ACC second team honoree forward Kealia Ohai led the squad with six goals, while the team posted the third-highest goals per game average in the conference at two. Its defense was equally impressive, allowing the third lowest number of goals in the conference at 14 over 17 matches.
Obviously, UNC will hold a significant advantage playing at home. The Tar Heels went 5-2-1 in Chapel Hill this season, outscoring opponents 16-5. But so far in 2011, the Tribe hasn’t been daunted playing in less familiar territory, posting a 5-2-1 road record. The team solidified its elite status among the conference on the road, closing out the regular season with a 4-1 road trip.
The winner will face either Texas State or Baylor in the round of 32.