U-20 Cup has Tar Heels in two finals at once

December, 7, 2008
CARY, N.C. -- University of North Carolina players have done just about everything there is to do in college soccer over the years, from perfect seasons to clean sheets for an entire postseason. But winning two championships in one day, in games played in different hemispheres, would be something new, even for the Tar Heels.

Then again, Notre Dame has its own chance to pull off a rare double on Sunday.

A few hours after North Carolina and Notre Dame meet for the NCAA championship in Cary, the United States plays North Korea in the final of the Under-20 World Cup in Chile. North Carolina sophomores Nikki Washington and Meghan Klingenberg and Notre Dame sophomore Lauren Fowlkes are members of the American team looking to reclaim the sport's top youth international crown after losses in both the 2004 and 2006 tournaments.

And as it turns out, the world we live in has allowed both college sides to stay in touch with their national team compatriots as all three teams progressed to Sunday's two finals.

"I think Meghan and Nikki were listening to the pregame talk [Friday]," Casey Nogueira said of North Carolina's semifinal against UCLA. "Someone had a phone because they wanted to hear it. And Nikki told me that they wanted to watch the game so bad but they didn't have the channel, so they called someone over the internet and had a webcam and made the person they called put the webcam on the TV."

Give a slight edge in creativity to the players from Chapel Hill, but Fowlkes has done her best to keep up to speed on the Fighting Irish with regular e-mails and her own Web surfing.

"She definitely has stayed with us every step of the way. She watches the games when she can on the Internet -- I don't think she can get ESPN," Brittany Bock said.

Fowlkes, Klingenberg and Washington all started for the United States in both its quarterfinal win against England and semifinal win against Germany. And after a quarter of an hour spent parrying questions about her team's recent success against North Carolina, Notre Dame senior defender Carrie Dew, a veteran of the 2006 Under-20 World Cup, beamed like a proud parent when it came to Fowlkes' performance in South America.

"I think she actually was player of the game in the semifinals, so she's doing extremely well down there," Dew said.

The bigger picture involved in the timing of the two events is something less than a feel-good story. FIFA's apparent unwillingness to take the United States college schedule into consideration (remembering that the NCAA is home not only to the American players but also the bulk of Canada's U-20 roster and a growing number of players from other countries) is on a long list of ways in which the international governing body marginalizes the women's game.

But those storm clouds aside, the current situation does create a uniquely compelling day of women's soccer Sunday, spread from North Carolina all the way to South America.

"We miss them so much, but we're really proud of them and how well they're doing down in Chile," Nogueira said.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.



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