By Paul Kennedy
North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance was in rare form at the Women's College Cup. If you believed Ol' Anson, Carolina had no chance in San Diego. None against Stanford in the semifinals. None against Penn State in the final.
Before the semifinal against defending champion Stanford, Dorrance spoke with envy about the No. 1 Cardinal, whose lineup, he said, was littered with his recruiting failures.
"We go head-to-head with Stanford in recruiting," he said, "and we rarely beat them."
He evoked the time two decades earlier he was approached about taking the job at the Farm.
"I tell you, it was so tempting," Dorrance said of the Stanford women's job. "The housing allowance they gave me was enormous. I was going to live in this palatial mansion right next to Palo Alto. Recruiting there would have been like shooting fish in a barrel. I could have golfed all day and made two recruiting calls and finished my recruiting within five minutes. And it would have been an absolute joy to recruit there."
What stopped him? "My mother, who is a native North Carolinian, called me up while I was on this visit, and she said, 'If you go to Stanford, I'm putting my head in an oven.' And that took care of that."
North Carolina might rarely win a recruiting battle with Stanford, but it certainly doesn't lose on the field.
Friday's 1-0 overtime win improved the Tar Heels' record against Stanford to 9-0-3 all-time.
Carolina took the lead in the final when Kealia Ohai, the Friday hero, scored a magnificent strike, but Penn State got back in the game and Taylor Schram matched her U.S. U-20 Women's World Cup teammate with a delicate chip to even the score.
Penn State playmaker Christine Nairn was starting to spray balls around and put Carolina -- well -- on its heels as the half ended 1-1.
ESPNU sideline reporter Cat Whitehill asked her former coach at the half how things were looking, and Dorrance didn't sound optimistic. The way he told it, the Tar Heels were lucky, needing to add a fourth player in the back, just to be in the game.
"Penn State is making our defense look like Swiss cheese," he said.
Dorrance detailed his plans for the second half: stay in the 4-2-3-1, protect the back and "maybe steal one."
Now in his 34th year as women's coach at Carolina, Ol' Anson was so effusive in his praise for Penn State's stars, Maya Hayes and Nairn, so frank in his assessment of his team's limitations that you couldn't help but take him at his word.
It took all of 46 seconds after the half for Carolina to score.
The final score was 4-1 -- frankly, it could have been a lot worse -- and Carolina had its 21st NCAA title.