Los Angeles Soccer: Anson Dorrance
As he prepared his Long Beach State women's soccer team for something truly historic, Mauricio Ingrassia figured what better way to illustrate what the 49ers have accomplished -- and what remains in their reach -- than to show off a little living history.
So off they went, upon flying into North Carolina for Friday's NCAA Division I quarterfinal at thid-ranked Duke, to visit Anson Dorrance, architect of the most dominant dynasty in American sports history.
Dorrance, with a nearly never-ending stream of legends -- Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, April Heinrichs, Carla Overbeck, Tisha Venturini, Lorrie Fair, Lindsay Tarpley, Lori Chalupny, Heather O'Reilly, Tobin Heath -- has guided North Carolina to 21 national championships and fueled the U.S. women's national team's dominance in the women's game.
“Four our girls, that's history,” said Ingrassia, whose 49ers (18-5-1) have won eight in a row, seven by shutout, en route to the Big West Conference tournament title, a first-round NCAA “upset” of No. 7 Pepperdine, victories over Miami and San Diego and to a wholly unexpected spot in the elite eight. “If you ask [female] college players around the country if they ever thought about playing at North Carolina, you'd see a lot of hands, and our program isn't any different.”
So Ingrassia's charges oohed and ahhed at all the silverware and championship banners and mementos of those icons, checked out the facilities and spend a little time with Dorrance, the winningest coach in the American game, any level, anywhere.
Now they head into a battle with a Duke team that's 20-3-1, has a vibrant attack led by freshman Kelly Cobb and sophomores Kaitlyn Kerr and Mollie Pathman and an outstanding backline anchored by sophomore Natasha Anasi. The smart money has the Blue Devils in the Dec. 4 final against No. 1 Stanford.
Nothing is expected of Long Beach State, which hadn't won in two previous NCAA appearances. Now they sit one very difficult win from a College Cup final appearance.
“The goal for the team was to get to the sweet 16 or better,” said Ingrassia, whose team has advanced further than North Carolina, defending champion Notre Dame and perennial powers Santa Clara, Portland, UCLA and Florida. “Once we got to the sweet 16, we got the team together and said, 'Define what 'better' means to you. They came up with some pretty good and pretty powerful answers, so we redefined our goal.”