By Michael Lewis
Say what you want about the NCAA – and there’s a lot of things you can say about the organization that isn’t on the flattering side – the decision to hold the men’s and women’s Division I soccer tournaments in North Carolina is a good one.
Actually, the Cary, N.C. and several area venues will host the tournaments from April 27-May 17. Wake Forest, North Carolina-Wilmington and UNC Greensboro are among the area campuses that will hold games, as well as other sites including Bryan Park in Greensboro and the J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex in Wilson.
During an eight-day span in October 1994 I toured the stage, featuring various college teams in a special project when I was the editor of Soccer Magazine. My journey began and ended in the northeast section of the state in the Triangle.
The eight-part story appeared in the March 1995 edition of the magazine.
The headline of this story was the exact one I used for this article (please see above).
This is what I wrote in the opening story:
Its reputation preceded itself. When you think of where the best college soccer is play day in, day out, North Carolina usually comes to wind.
And why not? The Tar Heels state is home to the perennial women’s champion North Carolina, has been the site of the men’s Division I Final Four the past three years and has several teams in what is universally considered the most difficult league in the nation.
Trying to schedule a game every night with as many different men’s and women’s team was a challenge and a half, but I believe I got the best of the schedule.
* Sunday, Oct. 16 – Duke University men at North Carolina State, Raleigh, N.C.
The gist of the story about coaches John Rennie (Duke) and George Tarantini (N.C. State), wo were enemies on the field but fast friends off of it.
* Tuesday, Oct. 18 – Gardner-Webb women at Elon College
Gardner-Webb never showed up and of course, that became the story. It probably was my favorite feature of the entire trip. After all, how many times do you write about no-show teams?
* Wednesday, Oct. 19 – Creighton University men at North Carolina-Charlotte, Davidson, N.C.
Davidson College, which hosted the NCAA finals in 1992-94 men’s Division I finals, was the venue for College Soccer Weekly every Wednesday night. That’s when two of the top ranked teams in the nation were pit against one another. Long-time announcer Dave Johnson and former U.S. international defender Desmond Armstrong were the announcers.
* Thursday, Oct. 20 – Georgia Southern men at Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.
This piece centered around Davidson men’s head coach Charlie Slagle, whose school became the little mouse that roared among Division I schools.
* Friday, Oct. 21 – North Carolina State women at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.
This story was about the challenges the Wake Forest University women had of competing as a first-year team in the always difficult Atlantic Coast Conference.
* Saturday, Oct. 22 – University of Maryland-Baltimore County at North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, N.C.
North Carolina-Greensboro men’s head coach Mike Parker was trying for a unique grand slam, having won three championships at Lock Haven, three at Greensboro and with the Greensboro Dynamo in the U.S. Interregional Soccer League (1994).
* Sunday, Oct. 23 – North Carolina State men at the University of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina women at UNC, Chapel Hill, N.C.
The men played first in this doubleheader at Fetzer Field before Anson Dorrance’s UNC women took on UVA, which was directed then by future U.S. women’s national team assistant coach Lauren Gregg. The Tar Heels had their 101-game unbeaten streak snapped by Duke the previous Wednesday. They bounced back with a 4-0 win.
I don’t remember the exact cost of the trip, but I do know it was cost effective. The roundtrip on Southwest Airlines was quite economical in those days. Ditto for the rental car. And I stayed at lower brands of the Marriott Hotel chain – Fairfield Inn Courtyard by Marriott and Springhill Suites, for example. Maybe, maybe $1,200 total.
Glad the publisher approved it. It was one of my favorite stories I have written, and of course, an education about North Carolina college soccer.
One last thing: If I decided to pursue such a project today, I would have been writing on a daily basis about these teams and personalities. Back in 1994, the internet, as we knew it, while considered high tech at the time, was just in its baby stages when compared to what we have today.