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Irish hold the No. 1 spot in both polls

Matt Mooney | Thursday, September 23, 2004

It’s a consensus.After the rankings in the coaches’ poll were released Tuesday, Notre Dame now holds the top spot in both major collegiate polls. The Irish (8-0-0) claimed the No. 1 spot in the Soccer America magazine poll last week following a weekend in which they defeated then-No. 11 Arizona State and previously top-ranked North Carolina (7-0-1) lost its perfect record in a scoreless tie against Tennessee. Notre Dame is now one of only five schools remaining with a perfect record out of 308 Division-I programs.It is fitting that the Irish had to overtake the Tar Heels to assume the top spot in the polls. North Carolina has been the barometer for success for a collegiate women’s soccer program since the NCAA began holding championships in 1982. In those 22 years, the Tar Heels have had a stranglehold on the championship trophy winning 17 titles, including the most recent in 2003. In only two years in NCAA history has North Carolina not finished either first or second. One of those years was 1995 when the Irish defeated the Tar Heels 1-0 in Chapel Hill, N.C., during the NCAA semifinals. Notre Dame went on to capture its first and only national title that year, ending North Carolina’s reign of 12 championships in 13 years.If any program has come close to playing even with the Tar Heels, it would be Notre Dame. Only the Irish have made more appearances in national title games (four) than North Carolina. While Notre Dame’s 2-8-2 mark against the Tar Heels is well below the .500 mark, the two wins and two ties are better than any other collegiate program. Only Santa Clara has more wins with three. From 1994-2000, Notre Dame has an overall record of 156-14-7, while North Carolina compiled a similar 172-9-2 during the same period. During the height of the Tar Heels’ incredible 12-year stretch from 1986-97 in which they went an astounding 283-4-9, the Irish accounted for half of their losses with a nearly even 2-4-2 mark against North Carolina.The two teams have not played in four years, but their matchups in the past were for high stakes and almost always narrowly decided. In 1994, North Carolina was riding a 92-game winning streak entering its second ever game with the Irish. When the dust cleared, Notre Dame had broken that streak by holding the Tar Heels to a 0-0 stalemate.The tie proved to be the beginning of an intense rivalry. Seven of the 12 games between the two teams have either been ties or decided by one goal, with four games going into overtime. Six times the matchup has pitted No. 1 against No. 2, and the two have battled in the national title game three times. The Irish lost all three of those games, including a 1-0 overtime thriller in 1996.The Irish, however, do have the distinction as one of only two teams to beat Carolina in consecutive games after defeating the Tar Heels in the NCAA semifinals in 1995 and then again in the regular season in 1996.Notre Dame does not have North Carolina on its regular season schedule this year, but the two teams could meet in the NCAA Tournament.