Marquette Women’s Soccer: Two demanding tests this weekend for Golden Eagles

Ally Miller knows the defense has a tough task against two ranked opponents this weekend. Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

The challenges of taking on two national giants in one weekend would probably scare a lot of teams off. However, this Marquette team is not like most.

The Golden Eagles (3-0-1) travel to Durham, N.C., this weekend to take on North Carolina (2-1-1) and Duke (4-1-0) in the Duke/Nike Invitational.

“We’re going down there to win two games, no question,” coach Markus Roeders said. “This will no doubt be our toughest challenge yet.”

Both opponents have won multiple ACC Championships and the Tar Heels are the most storied program in women’s college soccer history.

North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance is now in his 34th season as the Tar Heels’ head coach and has an all-time record of 730-45-27. Under Dorrance, Carolina has won 21 national championships, including 20 NCAA Tournament crows and one AIAW title.

The Heels have won 20 regular-season ACC titles and ACC Tournament crowns. During his tenure, Dorrance’s teams have lost only one ACC Tournament match.

“He’s certainly one of the premiere names in our sport,” Roeders said of Dorrance.

The Golden Eagles will catch a bit of a break because of Duke and North Carolina’s player participation in the Under-20 World Cup in Tokyo.

Following a 2-0 win over Nigeria on Tuesday, the U-20 team will take on Germany on Saturday in the championship. For the Tar Heels, that means the trio of Bryane Heaberlin, Kealia Ohai and Crystal Dunn won’t play against Marquette on Friday.

Heaberlin, a freshman goalkeeper, was ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2012 by Top Drawer Soccer and was expected to compete for playing time in net with Adelaide Gay and Anna Sieloff, who have each appeared in at least three matches.

Ohai, a junior forward, is a two-year starter who led the Tar Heels in goals, points and game-winning goals as a freshman, earning First Team All-ACC honors along the way.

Dunn, also a junior forward, is probably North Carolina’s biggest loss. Dunn won national Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman in 2010 and was chosen as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, despite now having moved to forward.

Dunn was a 2010 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Award semifinalist and has scored 12 goals and tallied 14 assists in two seasons.

North Carolina is coming off a pair of wins at the Notre Dame Adidas Invitational against Connecticut and the Fighting Irish.

Those wins followed a disappointing start to the season, with the Heels losing an exhibition match to North Carolina-Wilmington and its regular season opener at Portland.

Junior defender Ally Miller is confident in Marquette’s ability to come into enemy territory and score goals while trying to keep its shutout streak alive, despite playing two potent offenses.

“It’s disappointing not to score, so we’ll have to learn from that and get a few this weekend,” Miller said.

The Blue Devils will be without junior forward Mollie Pathman and sophomore forward Kelly Cobb for their Sunday afternoon meeting with the Golden Eagles.

Pathman has been picked as a Second Team All-ACC selection each of her two years at Duke and is tied for fifth on the Blue Devils’ all-time charts with five multi-goal games. Pathman has been with the U.S. national team since the U-14 level.

Cobb made 22 starts as a freshman and was also named to the Second Team All-ACC and scored two goals and four assists in the Duke/Nike Invitational last season. Cobb was limited by injury last season and had to miss the Blue Devils’ clash with the Tar Heels because of injury.

The Blue Devils rebounded from a 3-2 overtime loss to Florida on Aug. 26 with a pair of wins at the USC Futbol Classic in Los Angeles last weekend. Duke knocked off host USC and Washington State by a combined score of 6-1.

“We know we’re going to have to be on top of our game in order to get two wins,” sophomore goalkeeper Sofie Schunk said.