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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shipalane in the rain: Carolina RailHawks oust Fort Lauderdale Strikers from NASL playoffs, 3-1

Posted By on Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Chris BairdTy Shipalane, seen here during Carolina's July 7 match against the Fort Lauderdale, notched a brace to propel the RailHawks to a 3-1 win over the Strikers in the 2012 NASL playoffsWAKEMED SOCCER PARK/CARY—It might be the playoffs, but two things didn't change for the Carolina RailHawks in their one-game quarterfinal clash with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. First was yet another weather delay—the fourth for a home match this season—that postponed the opening kickoff nearly an hour. Indeed, you know such delays have become de rigueur when the playlist of rain-themed music is already echoing over the stadium’s PA...

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tar Heels score and score and score some more in wet victory

Posted By on Sat, Sep 29, 2012 at 8:22 PM

Photo by Chris BairdGio Bernard breaks the attempted tackle by Idaho's Nik Landdeck.KENAN STADIUM/CHAPEL HILL It’s going to be a pretty soggy afternoon as UNC hosts Idaho for the first time today. It’s a rare purchase of a home game against an FBS team, meaning the Tar Heels will be writing the Vandals an $800,000 check and not making the return trip to the Kibbie Dome. UNC (2-2) is looking to get above .500 for the first time since the opening win over Elon, while Idaho (0-4) is looking for what would be one of the biggest wins in school...

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A season of highlights continues as Carolina RailHawks host Fort Lauderdale Strikers to open NASL playoffs

Posted By on Sat, Sep 29, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Chris BairdThe Carolina RailHawks open the 2012 NASL playoffs Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park when they face the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a single-game quarterfinal showdown. Ardent RailHawks followers know that playoff soccer has produced some the most exciting matches in franchise history. The second leg of the 2010 semifinals against the Montreal Impact supplied Tom Heinemann’s late game-winner and a disallowed equalizer that prompted some Montreal players and staff to literally chase the game officials off the pitch. Then last year, Carolina fell in the semifinals to the Minnesota Stars in an epic, back-and-forth second leg in Cary...

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Tar Heels home today while State, Duke get huge road tests

Posted By on Sat, Sep 29, 2012 at 1:39 AM

It’s Week 5 of the college season, and although a lot of football has been played it’s still very unclear how Triangle campaigns are going to pan out. Today’s road games for Duke and N.C. State may begin to give a clearer indication.File photo by Chris BairdUNC quarterback Bryn Renner.Only one local team is at home and that’s UNC (2-2), which will host first-time foe Idaho (0-4) at 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels whipped East Carolina 27-6 last week while the Vandals fell 40-37 to Wyoming.N.C. State (3-1) will play its conference opener at noon at Miami...

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The meaning of meaningful: Carolina RailHawks draw with Tampa Bay Rowdies 0-0 in regular season finale

Posted By on Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Chris BairdAmir Lowery of the Carolina RailHawks maneuvers around the Rowdies' Raphael Cox during Saturday's 0-0 draw in Cary WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/CARY—Going into Saturday’s regular season finale between the Carolina RailHawks and the visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies, both clubs had clinched berths in the upcoming NASL playoffs. Carolina knew it would host a one-game quarterfinal match at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sept. 29, and Tampa had already earned a bye into the two-legged semifinal round beginning Oct. 6. Sure, a Tampa win coupled with a San Antonio loss on Sunday would give the Rowdies the regular season league title, and...

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tar Heels use third-quarter rally to bounce back, thrash Pirates

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2012 at 7:59 PM

Photo by Chris BairdUNC's Kareem Martin prepares to sack ECU quarterback Shane Carden.KENAN STADIUM/CHAPEL HILL UNC returns home licking its wounds after back-to-back one-possession losses, and the 1-2 Tar Heels will face their most interesting home non-conference opponent of the season. Today’s visitor is in-state rival East Carolina (2-1), which is coming off a 24-14 win at traditional foe Southern Mississippi last week. UNC played its two losses without all-everything back Gio Bernard, who is back from the injury list and ready to go against the Pirates. The Tar Heels have won two straight in the series, including a 35-20...

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The Not-so-Beautiful Game: Tar Heels outlast Virginia Cavaliers 1-0

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2012 at 8:30 AM

www.goheels.comUNC goalkeeper Scott GoodwinFETZER FIELD/CHAPEL HILL—Following last week’s nil-nil draw with Wake Forest, North Carolina men’s soccer coach Carlos Somoano sounded the part of winner, pleased with the outcome of a hard-fought, well-played conference clash. After this Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers (4-3-1, 1-1-0 ACC) in Chapel Hill, Somoano saw things a bit differently. “These teams [we are playing] are good teams, and you can either manipulate the ball through them or you can’t. And we’re struggling with that. Our decisions are not great and we’ve got to get better. I actually thought last week against Wake ...

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UNC hosts East Carolina on a day all Triangle teams are favored

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2012 at 12:51 AM

File photo by Chris BairdUNC's Erik Highsmith runs for daylight in the Elon game.All three Triangle ACC football teams are home today, and the schedule includes one of the state’s traditional biggest games of the season. UNC (1-2) will try to bounce back from two straight losses as the Tar Heels host East Carolina (2-1) at Kenan Stadium in a 3:30 p.m. contest to be shown on ESPNU. Both of the other Triangle teams will be solid favorites at home as they attempt to stay headed in the right direction. Duke (2-1) will take on Memphis (0-3) in the Blue...

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reno comes up Aces, denies PawSox Triple-A Championship

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 12:51 AM

Photo by Al DragoThe Reno Aces pose for a team photo in their champagne-soaked clubhouse.DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK It’s the Triple-A National Championship Game on a soggy September night. And although the Durham Bulls had their worst season in six years and didn’t get anywhere near the game, there’s a great crowd of 8,601 in the house. The Pawtucket Red Sox, Durham’s worst tormentors in the International League with a 36-27 record in the park, are the Governors’ Cup Champions taking on the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League. Manager of the Aces is Brett Butler, who was a...

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Updating the hypothetical NASL "Clausura": It's a two-team race between Tampa Bay and Carolina

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 5:09 PM

nasl.com We're heading into the final weekend of regular season NASL play, and all six playoff spots in the eight-team league have been claimed, with teams having either one or two games to play. Last week, we conducted a thought experiment in which we recast this season under the schedule format that will take effect next year. In the interest of seeing it through to its completion, we have updated the Clausura schedule. But first, let's review the standings according to the official table, shown above. Atlanta and Edmonton are the odd ones out. Sorry Eddies, sorry Silverbacks (Chiefs?). The...

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Renfree's arm, big returns lead Duke in blowout of NCCU

Posted By on Sat, Sep 15, 2012 at 11:49 PM

WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM It’s the second edition of the Bull City Gridiron Classic, with new crosstown rivals Photo by Chris BairdDuke’s Ross Cockrell completes his interception return for a touchdown while teammate Lee Butler follows the play.Duke and N.C. Central squaring off on a perfect night for football. The Blue Devils won the first meeting 49-14 in 2009, and the teams are set to play in four of the next five years with the exception being 2014. Both teams are 1-1, and each is coming off a rough loss last week — Duke falling 50-13 at No. 25 Stanford and...

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Purists' delight: UNC men's soccer draws 0-0 with Wake Forest

Posted By on Sat, Sep 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Neil MorrisAt least the fans scored...autographs after the Tar Heels' 0-0 draw with Wake Forest in Chapel HillFETZER FIELD/CHAPEL HILL—The autumnal atmosphere of Fetzer Field could not have been more delightful for those who ventured out for an ACC duel between the (temporarily) top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and the 15th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons. What followed was 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, a nil-nil double-overtime draw that was high on pace and intensity but low on finishing. According to UNC sports information, it was Carolina's first 0-0 draw since the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament against Georgetown....

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Bull City Classic tonight; Wolfpack comes home while UNC travels

Posted By on Sat, Sep 15, 2012 at 12:20 AM

File photo by Chris BairdDuke's Conner Vernon makes a catch in the opener against Florida International.It’s party time in Durham tonight.New cross-town rivals Duke and N.C. Central will meet for just the second time on the football field at 7 p.m. in the Bull City Gridiron Classic. And because they signed a contract to extend the series earlier this week, it’s the first of many more to come. NCCU will visit Wallace Wade Stadium for both teams’ season opener next year, and future meetings are scheduled for 2015, 2016 and 2017. It’s one of three games involving Triangle Division I...

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Friday, September 14, 2012

RailHawks prez Curt Johnson talks new team signings, Warzycha loan recall and controversial NASL split-season

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Neil MorrisCurt JohnsonOn Wednesday night, the Carolina RailHawks squandered an opportunity to pull even with the Puerto Rico Islanders for third-place in the NASL standings by only managing a 2-2 draw with cellar-dwelling FC Edmonton on the gridiron of Clarke Stadium in Alberta. Instead, the RailHawks are tied with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the fourth position, and Carolina’s three remaining regular season games are against San Antonio and Tampa Bay (twice), the league’s table-topping teams. With the start of the NASL playoffs just over two weeks away, teams are finalizing their rosters in advance of today’s 5 p.m. roster...

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Monday, September 10, 2012

A thought experiment: What would NASL's split-season plan look like this season?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 6:29 PM

File photo by Chris BairdWakeMed Soccer Park, in wide angleLast week, the North American Soccer League (NASL), which represents the second tier of the North American game, announced what amounts to a radical restructuring of the competition’s format. In its first two seasons, the eight teams of NASL have played 28-game seasons, followed by a three-round, six-team elimination playoff. But beginning next year, the league will play two short round-robin competitions of 14 games apiece. The winners of the two competitions will meet in a single-game championship final. As Neil Morris noted last week, the new format bears a strong...

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

I've got good news and bad news: Cunningham, San Antonio Scorpions down Carolina RailHawks 1-0

Posted By on Sun, Sep 9, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Chris BairdFloyd Franks gets handcuffed during the Carolina RailHawks 1-0 loss to San Antonio Saturday in CaryWAKEMED SOCCER PARK/CARY—In the midst of a middling season for the Carolina RailHawks, one of the brightest spots has been their record at WakeMed Soccer Park. Notwithstanding the three draws gifted away after failing to hold two-goal leads, Carolina entered Saturday’s contest against the San Antonio Scorpions having lost only only one home match this season. Only the Tampa Bay Rowdies had that few home defeats, with both Carolina and Tampa Bay’s common conqueror being the league-leading Scorpions (whose own home defeats have been...

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ACC announces slate with Buckeyes, Michigan State, Cal visiting Triangle

Posted By on Sun, Sep 9, 2012 at 3:18 PM

The Atlantic Coast Conference released its women’s basketball schedule this week, and tipoff time is just two months from today. Both UNC and N.C. State will open at home on Nov. 9, with the Tar Heels taking on Davidson at 5 p.m. in the first round of the preseason NIT and the Wolfpack hosting Wofford in the first round of the Sheraton Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational at a time still to be determined. State will face either Auburn or Maine in the final game of its tournament on Nov. 10. Duke won’t open for real until its Nov. 17 game against...

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

It's bad news for NCCU, as Elon bounces back strong

Posted By on Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 10:48 PM

Photo by Al DragoElon's Jeremy Peterson looks for running room against NCCU.RHODES STADIUM/ELON N.C. Central and Elon renew their series on a damp Saturday night in a game some call an annual measuring stick for both teams. Both the MEAC member Eagles (1-0) and the Southern Conference member Phoenix (0-1) are playing their only Division I-FCS non-conference game of the season. NCCU, which snapped a two-game losing streak with a 54-31 romp over former CIAA rival Fayetteville State in its opener, is looking to get some momentum going. Elon, meanwhile, is licking its wounds after getting a big check and...

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It's road-trip time for area teams, but UNC and NCCU won't go far

Posted By on Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 2:42 AM

It’s Week 2 of the college football season, and unfortunately for Triangle-area fans all the local Division I teams are on the road today. Fortunately for road-trippers, a couple of them are not too far away.File photo by Chris BairdUNC's Erik Highsmith fights for yardage in the Elon game. UNC (1-0), fresh off a 62-0 season-opening win over Elon, will visit Wake Forest (1-0) at 3 p.m. in the ACC opener for both. That game will be shown on Fox Sports Carolinas. Then at 7 p.m. N.C. Central (1-0), which drubbed former CIAA foe Fayetteville State 54-31 in its opener,...

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Split season? Single-game playoff? Inadvertent leak suggests so as NASL prepares to announce major format changes

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 10:22 PM

UPDATE 2 11:00 a.m.: While much of the early reaction to the NASL's announcement appears positive, the criticisms revolve around two predominant issues: the lack of a two-leg championship final and allowing the Spring champion to host the "Soccer Bowl" as opposed to, for instance, the participant with the best overall record over the entire year. While I agree with both concerns, particularly the lack of a two-leg final, the practical answer to both criticisms are probably the same: TV and travel. Holding a one-game final would be an easier, more practical package for potential television partners as opposed to...

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Go fetch: UNC men's soccer team hurls long balls over Boston Terriers for 2-1 win

Posted By on Mon, Sep 3, 2012 at 8:30 AM

www.mattfoto.comFETZER FIELD/CHAPEL HILL—Those requiring an antidote to North Carolina's physical, grinding 1-0 win over West Virginia on Friday evening needed only venture out to the cozy confines of Fetzer Field two nights hence for the Carolina men soccer team’s Labor Day's Eve match against Boston University. A total of thirty-one shots (16 on-target) yielded three goals in UNC’s 2-1 victory, which raises the top-ranked Tar Heels’ undefeated record to 3-0-0. Still, despite dominated long stretches of the contest, Head Coach Carlos Somoano was flummoxed by his team’s inability to put away Boston despite holding a two-goal lead late in the...

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Blue Moon over Bayamón: Carolina RailHawks score important road win over Puerto Rico Islanders, 3-1

Posted By on Sun, Sep 2, 2012 at 8:30 AM

WEB/BAYAMÓN, P.R.—The task couldn’t have appeared steeper for the Carolina RailHawks as they traveled to Puerto Rico to face the ever-daunting Islanders at the recently renovated Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium. The RailHawks had only two road wins this season, both against the cellar-dwelling Atlanta Silverbacks. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico had only dropped one NASL home match this year, a 2-0 loss to the San Antonio Scorpions, a defeat the Islanders had since avenged twice, at home and in Texas. Moreover, the RailHawks were without arguably their two best defenders, center back Gale Agbossoumonde and holding midfielder Amir Lowery, both suspended one...

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Alex Torres, Durham Bulls shut out Charlotte Knights in final home game of season: Keeping the Faith

Posted By on Sun, Sep 2, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Alex TorresDBAP/ DURHAM—Faith is, as a bestseller tells us, the evidence of things unseen, and we haven't seen Alex Torres recently. Torres pitched pretty well in his first start of 2012, way back in the second game of the season—but he didn't pitch that well, not as well it as the box score suggests. It was the evidence of things seen—the pitches, the man throwing them, his diffidence and erratic kinetics—and not the grid of simplified numbers, which are anathema to faith, that contained the truth that was to come. After that first start in April, Alex Torres was bad...

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Blue Devils' second quarter explosion keys easy win over FIU

Posted By on Sun, Sep 2, 2012 at 12:10 AM

Photo by Chris BairdJamison Crowder outruns FIU's Sam Miller for his second-quarter TD.WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke begins its 100th football season with hopes for its first winning campaign since 1994. And tonight’s contest is likely to be a pretty good indicator for how David Cutcliffe’s sixth season at the helm will be. The opponent is Florida International, which is marketing hard to become simply “FIU” in the vernacular of the sports fan. Mario Cristobal’s Golden Panthers were the last team Duke beat, that a 31-27 nail-biter last Oct. 1 in Miami. FIU went 8-5 last season, losing something called the...

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Easy start for Fedora era as Tar Heels annihilate Elon 62-0

Posted By on Sat, Sep 1, 2012 at 4:59 PM

Photo by Chris BairdUNC's Giovani Bernard bursts through a big hole for a touchdown.KENAN STADIUM/CHAPEL HILL UNC opens its football season on a sunny, warm afternoon, and there’s a visiting team that’s both familiar and unfamiliar. It’s kind of an historic day for Elon, which will be taking on the Tar Heels in football for the first time ever. For UNC it’s the beginning of the Larry Fedora era, the coach taking over the helm after going 34-19 in four seasons at Southern Mississippi. The regular season will be it for the Tar Heels this time, as they’re on a...

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