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ND Women’s Soccer: Nogueira’s great skill set could still improve

Fran Tolan | Monday, December 8, 2008

CARY, N.C. – After North Carolina forward Casey Nogueira scored both of her team’s goals in a 2-1 win over Notre Dame Sunday, Tar Heels coach Anson Dorrance compared her skills to those of Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho.

Despite Nogueira’s pair of nearly perfect shots, the compliment was probably a stretch. But it also says a lot about the state of NCAA women’s soccer.

“Obviously, our game doesn’t get much exposure and certainly for the young girls that are watching, it gets almost none,” Dorrance said. “As far as those young girls think, the only sort of people that can hit that kind of strike [like the two by Nogueira] are these men that play in the [English] Premiership.

“What’s kind of cool right now is in the national championship final, everyone that Tivo’d that game can show their kids, ‘This is how women can play.'”

Nogueira, a junior who won the ACC player of the year award, notched her first goal on a rocket free kick into the left corner of the net. Irish goalie Kelsey Lysander had hardly any time to react on the shot.

“I just hit it as hard as I could, and thank goodness it went in,” Nogueira said.

Her second goal proved to be the game-winner. With 2:06 remaining in the game, the right-footed Nogueira hit a lefty shot from just outside the box. The ball was deflected and sailed over Lysander’s head.

“On the greatest platform we have, which is the national championship final, she scored two of the most phenomenal goals I’ve ever seen,” said Dorrance, who has coached North Carolina for 30 years. “I’m talking about, if both of those were struck in a Premiership game, you’d be seeing both of those goals on a highlight reel at the end of the week.”

Nogueira said she came to North Carolina with considerable raw skills but little idea of how to use them. She said, somewhat jokingly, that her coaches even had to teach her how to sprint.

“When I came in here my freshman year, there was a lot I had to learn and [Dorrance] has taught me a lot,” Nogueira said. ” … I never really knew the difference between playing and competing. I just liked to play so I did.”

Dorrance agreed and said that his star forward is still a work in progress. But he also claimed that “the sky is the limit” for Nogueira.

“I think Casey has the potential, if she puts all the pieces together, to be one of the greatest players in the world,” Dorrance said.

Dorrance said Nogueira has the skill set to be among the best players in the game. But the coach added that he hopes she continues to improve.

“You could be the greatest juggler and still be totally ineffective on the field,” Dorrance said. “So her evolution as a player is to take all these remarkable tools she has and figure out how and when to use them.”

Nogueira certainly knew how and when to use them Sunday against Notre Dame.