After opening the season March 14 at home with a friendly against the MLS Revolution, the ’Hawks take a turn being the visiting powerhouse when the team visits 2nd-division Richmond Kickers. The first regular fixture is Saturday, April 11, versus the Minnesota Thunder.
The scheduling is odd, to say the least: The ’Hawks' first 10 matches will feature two games apiece against Minnesota and USL-1 newcomer Cleveland, and three games against Portland. And the two games against Cleveland, formerly coached by the ’Hawks' new hire Martin Rennie, will both be televised nationally by Fox Soccer Channel.
Probably the most important thing is that the first three games are at home, giving the team excellent conditions for starting the season on the right foot—with nine points. Here's the full schedule.
North Carolina wasn't able to cross the 100-point, biscuit-special threshold on Wednesday night against Clemson, but the Heels did roll to a dominant 94-70 victory over the Tigers in Chapel Hill.
The Tigers retained their perfectly inept record at Carolina, dropping to 0-54 all-time in Chapel Hill. That's the longest winning streak of that nature in Division I basketball, and it's especially impressive given that the Tigers have amassed a solid basketball program over the past half-century.
Though the second half didn't look like it, Wednesday night actually was a matchup of top-10 teams.
Just two days after announcing the departure of defender and captain Frankie Sanfilippo, the RailHawks revealed a very welcome retention: Striker Hamed Diallo, one of the most efficient scorers in the league last year, has signed on for his first full season with the squad.
Contract details were not released, and the deal awaits USL and USSF [United States Soccer Federation] approval. [UPDATE 3:01 p.m.: RailHawks management tells us it's a one-year deal, but offer no details on salary, per team policy.]
Diallo, a native of Ivory Coast and past member of its national team, joined the RailHawks last July in a three-team deal involving Portland and Rochester. Despite appearing in only 16 games for the Cary side, he finished among the league leaders in goals (7) and points (17), and was named to the USL-1 team of the week three times. The final week of the season, he was named player of the week.
DURHAM—Frigid temperatures, slick roads, a relatively late start time on a Tuesday night. These were all reasons to skip this game between Duke and N.C. State, but the arena was (officially, if not literally) filled to its 9,314 capacity.
It was well worth the trouble, for fans saw an unexpectedly competitive game as a feisty, wily Wolfpack squad, led by veterans Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, threatened upset for 33 minutes before the Blue Devils—led by Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson—erupted with a closing 20-3 run to put the game away.
With campus hero J.J. Redick sitting behind the home bench, Duke came out with spirits high and guns blazing. Except that its shooters could barely hit the backboard: 29 percent in the first half. Perhaps Redick had a notion to go find his retired jersey and some sneakers.... In any event, State reaped the harvest of Duke's misplaced shots and went to the locker room with a 26-22 halftime lead—a nice accomplishment, but there was no way Duke would continue to shoot so badly.
Whoever mans the iPOD in the Hurricanes’ locker room at the RBC Center has taken to playing a song that describes the team’s play of late. If you have a young daughter or listen to the radio, you’ve probably heard it before.
The lyrics go a little something like this:
“Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down…”
(“Hot N Cold,” Katy Perry, One of the Boys, 2008)
After two straight wins, the Hurricanes fit into the “hot” category going into the All-Star break, but fans know all too well that that status could change on a dime. The ‘Canes took down the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, 2-1, a night after shutting out the Maple Leafs 2-0, in a game that quietly served as payback for Toronto’s exhilarating and perplexing 6-4 defeat at the RBC Center last Thursday. In their last 11 games, the Hurricanes have won four in a row, dropped five in a row, and then followed up with two wins.
After allowing a scary 21 goals over that five-game losing streak, Cam Ward has now let one puck by him in his last two games.
The celebrated women's basketball coach, who has been waging a public and rousing battle against breast cancer, was hospitalized last week on the advice of her oncologist, the News and Observer reported today. Over at WRAL.com, fans are leaving words of support.
Yow last coached her team Dec. 22, and the school announced Jan. 7 that she would not return this season.
The identity of the hospital was not disclosed.
In what may be a harbinger of the changing face of the RailHawks, the Charleston Battery announced today that it had signed Frankie Sanfilippo, a two-year ’Hawks veteran, to a three-year deal.
The 27-year-old defender scored one goal in 51 games for the RailHawks. Prior to his stint in Cary, he played for the Rochester Rhinos and the now-defunct Syracuse Salty Dogs.
Sanfilippo never lost to his new employer during his RailHawks tenure.
The USL announcement is here.
UPDATE 6:13 P.M.: In response to a request for comment, the RailHawks released this statement from president Brian Wellman:
Frankie has been a tremendous part of the RailHawks organization these past two years. He is a phenomenal leader both on and off the field and though we are sad to see him go we wish him all the best in his future at the Battery.
CHAPEL HILL — It was a Monday night mid-season clash of women's basketball titans, and a potential preview of a Final Four matchup. But, after the top-ranked and unbeaten University of Connecticut Huskies humiliated the second-ranked and previously unbeaten Tar Heels, it was hard to picture Sylvia Hatchell's squad anywhere near the trophy that will be hoisted on April 7 in St. Louis.
The game, which stood at 88-58 when it mercifully ended, was a bloodbath as Geno Auriemma's Huskies proved to be faster, stronger, tougher and smarter than their host, a team that had rolled up a 17-0 record with an average victory margin of 26 points. Although Auriemma tried to avoid outright crowing afterward, he did allow that he thought the Heels may have been shocked to finally face a team that could run the floor with them. Hatchell, for her part, said more than once that the game had been more physical than her team was accustomed to.
The key statistic of this blowout is the rebounding margin: UConn got 53 of them, including 21 on the offensive end. The Heels: 32 total, 12 on offense. Behind the effective perimeter shooting of Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore, the Huskies were able to stretch out out the Heels' defense. The result was a cascade of back-door cuts, some with no weak-side help within 5 feet.
On the Heels' side, there was poor passing, rushed shots in transition and prolonged disappearances from key scorers. As Hatchell noted afterward, the Tar Heels depend on slashing drives to the basket by its wing players. The Heels occasionally showed signs of life on the few occasions when Rashanda McCants (13 pts on 5-15 shooting), Jessica Breland (10 pts) and Italee Lucas (15 pts, but 1-6 on 3s) were able to take the ball to the basket. But all too often, a rousing offensive play was quickly negated a few seconds later by a Huskies backdoor lay-up.
Although freshman center Chay Shegog appeared noticeably more fit than when I saw her in November, and hustled for 31 minutes, she was no match for the Huskies' more experienced and far more aggressive front court. No doubt the game was difficult for her, and both Auriemma and Hatchell took pains to tell reporters that she will, in time, become a formidable player. ("A trial by fire," Hatchell said.)
Unbelievably, given the result, the Huskies entered the game having to grapple with the loss, only two days earlier, of freshman starting point guard Caroline Doty, who ruptured her ACL in a game against Syracuse. After the Monday morning shoot-around, Auriemma told reporters, he made the decision to start sophomore guard Lorin Dixon. Dixon easily shredded the Heels' backcourt, passing out six assists and hitting all five of her field goal attempts en route to 14 points.
The Heels will have better nights than this one, to be sure. But, judging from the dazed expressions on the faces of Heather Claytor and Lucas as they sat in the press room afterward, it may take some time for the team to rebuild its shattered confidence.
CHAPEL HILL -- When they rolled into the Dean Smith Center on Saturday night, the Miami Hurricanes had no opportunity to sneak up on North Carolina. The Tar Heels, facing an urgent situation after losing their first two conference games, shook off a rusty start to wear out the Canes 82-65.
Prior to the second half whipping, however, this game took on what for UNC fans was a frighteningly similar feel to the Boston College and Wake Forest defeats. The Hurricanes buried jump shots against the Tar Heels' flagging defense, and the team's body language became very negative.
DURHAM -- Duke prevailed over Georgetown 76-67 in a heavyweight showdown on Saturday to make another statement that perhaps the Blue Devils are the nation's best team.
Junior Gerald Henderson paced the club with 23 points on a variety of sensational moves — including one electrifying alley-oop off an in-bounds play — while forward Kyle Singer added 15 points and 16 rebounds.