[TOP 5 PREVIEW] So many times North Carolina has been wiped out by graduation and come back to win a national championship that you just assumed it will always be the case. Well, that didn't happen last year, as the Tar Heels fell to Notre Dame, 4-1, in the NCAA Tournament. Third behind Stanford and Notre Dame in the 2011 preseason rankings, UNC will be an underdog -- just the position Coach Anson Dorrance loves.
The three-goal loss to Notre Dame certainly smarted, though. It marked the first time UNC had dropped a match by more than a single goal in 607 matches -- dating to a 2-0 loss to George Mason in the 1985 NCAA Tournament championship game.
The 2010 season, perhaps Dorrance's toughest rebuilding year ever, was certainly a challenge. For only the fourth time in 24 years, UNC didn't win the ACC title.
It didn't help that injuries limited its senior stars Rachel Givan and Ali Hawkins to a combined 10 starts.
The Heels started five freshmen against Notre Dame. The best of them was Crystal Dunn. She was named the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year but was used just about everywhere on the field.
Dunn should start up front with senior Courtney Jones (11 goals, 14 assists) and sophomore Kealia Ohai, who led Carolina with 14 goals to go with nine assists as a freshman.
Juniors Amber Brooks and Ranee Premji will patrol the midfield, which will welcome back Maria Lubrano, who missed last season.
By Carolina standards, the 2011 freshman class is rather modest. Has Dorrance lost his recruiting touch? Hardly.
The Tar Heels have verbal commitments from national youth team players Bryane Heaberlin, Lindsey Horan, Reilly Parker and Carolina Lindquist (class of 2012) and Joanna Boyles, Summer Green and Jenny Chiu (class of 2013).
Aug. 19 at Nebraska, 7:00 p.m. ET
Carolina Nike Classic
Aug. 26 vs. Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 28 vs. Houston, 3:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 4 at Ohio State, 6:00 p.m. ET
Duke Nike Classic
Sept. 9 vs. UNC Greensboro, 2:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 11 vs. Texas A&M, 12:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 16 vs. N.C. State *, 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 25 vs. Virginia *, 3:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 29 at Florida State *, 7:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 2 at Miami, Fla. *, 1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 6 vs. Clemson *, 8:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 13 vs. Duke *, 7:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 16 vs. Wake Forest *, 1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 20 at Boston College *, 7:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 23 at Virginia Tech *, 1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 27 at Maryland *, 7:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 30 Quarterfinals at campus sites TBA
Nov. 4-6 Semifinals-Final in Cary, N.C. TBA
Tomorrow: #4 Florida State.