DURHAM, N.C.-- After arriving in Durham only three weeks ago, it’s hard to believe we’ve already begun our season.
Together we were challenged by a rigorous preseason filled with physical testing, two a days and loads of sweat (with a little fun here and there too). After the first five days of demanding and intense sessions, we traveled down to Wrightsville Beach, a place familiar to the juniors and seniors on the team, but new to us sophomores and freshman. We continued to train hard with two-a-days at the beach, training in the morning and late afternoon while relaxing in one big beach house that we all shared in between sessions. At the beach we started to fine-tune aspects of our defensive and offensive game and prepare for our exhibition game against South Carolina on Aug. 14.
Before the big day, however, we did get to experience a morning of fun at the beach, as our whole team traveled just a few blocks from our house down to a sunny and sandy Wrightsville beach.
On Thursday, everyone was extremely excited to put on a Blue Devil uniform again, some for the first time, and it showed in a good performance and 2-0 win over a quality South Carolina team. Although we understood there was still much to improve on, it was a great start and a satisfying win over a team that we had lost to last year.
Just a few days later we traveled back down to Wilmington to play UNC Wilmington. A wonderful individual effort by Imani Dorsey resulted in a goal within the first few minutes of the game, and after a hard fought battle for the next 85 or so minutes, we finished the game with a 1-0 victory. Although there were a lot of good things shown by our team in the game and a good result to finish, we were challenged by our coaching staff to work even harder in order to compete and improve as a team.
The following week we prepared to compete in the UNC Nike Classic, a tournament hosted by North Carolina that we play every year. The competition that comes to play is always top quality, and this year was no different. After enduring a series of frustrating lighting delays, we took the field Friday night against a very physical Ohio State side, and although we outshot them and had a majority of the play, an unfortunate defensive mistake led to a disappointing 1-0 loss. We were reminded just how cruel the game of soccer can be, and also that we still have a lot of work to do as a team. Although the result didn’t show it, I was very proud of how we played and excited by all the hard work and good things happening on the field.
We had another opportunity to play against a talented opponent two days later. On Sunday, we played the Stanford Cardinals for the first time since seeing them in the national final three years ago. Although both teams have changed greatly since then, the game still held a lot of meaning for both sides. After a hard fought and evenly matched first half with both teams creating chances, we went into the second half still tied 0-0. Both teams playing in hot weather and on heavy legs, we continued to battle. Unfortunately, Stanford was the first to find the net, scoring a header off a cross into our box. We continued to play and search for a goal, and after moving more numbers forward, we conceded another goal with the game ending 2-0.
Although the loss was very disappointing and painful, I was extremely proud of the soccer that was played and the effort that was given by every single member of our team. Every person that stepped on the field gave the team their best effort, and every person on the sideline was extremely invested, encouraging, and crucial to our effort as a team. Though we don’t walk away with the results we wanted, we walk away with valuable lessons and experience, as well the knowledge that we can play with anyone in the country.
For me, on a final note, I was so excited by the soccer being played this weekend and by the knowledge that this is just the beginning. We’re only going to grow, get better, and become closer from here, and we showed that we can be extremely dangerous offensively and that we have a very deep and tenacious roster willing to scrap and battle against anyone.
Right now, we’re hungry for a win. That’s the only thing on our minds right now as we move forward together. We have a wonderful opportunity this Friday at West Virginia to do just that.