Player signs with 'legendary' UNC soccer program
Thursday, December 16, 2010
By Tommy Howard
"I want to play soccer right now."
That love of the game on a cold December day illustrates just how much Taylor Player loves soccer.
For that reason, the Waccamaw High graduate signed a letter of intent on Tuesday to play with the University of North Carolina, under head women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance.
"She's awesome, phenomenal," Waccamaw girls' soccer coach Brian Brennan said. "She can do things with a soccer ball no one else can.
"I call her the human highlight reel."
Brennan said that the women's soccer program at UNC is the premier program in the country.
"This is a huge deal. That's how good the program is. It's legendary."
"You can't sign for any sport and have a bigger deal than going to UNC and play women's soccer."
Miss playing soccer
Curtis Freeman, coach of the travel soccer program who worked with Player and others, said she called him in June.
"I think made a mistake," she said. "I miss playing soccer."
A lot of small schools in South Carolina were interested in her, Freeman said, but she didn't want to go to a small school.
"Ever since I started coaching Taylor, I saw she had a lot of potential."
He took her to a soccer camp at Chapel Hill that same weekend.
UNC coach Anson Dorrance "loved her athleticism."
He told Freeman that if Player could come to the university in the spring fit and in shape, he would use her.
That spring season won't count against her eligibility, and then next fall she will have four seasons of eligibility.
Last year, Freeman said, UNC lost 13 starters. With that in mind, he believes Player will have a good chance on the team. And that team, he believes, will be one of the best in the history of women's soccer in the United States.
"She's walking into a possibility of three or four national championships," he said.
"I could see her getting some time on a national level if she's committed to doing what it takes at UNC," he added.
Freeman is director of soccer for Champions in Training and coaches for SC United.
"If she proves herself in the spring," Freeman said Anson Dorrance told him, "people have to beat you to get it. There's no reason she couldn't play."
Pull of Pawleys
Player admitted to feeling "pretty cool" about signing with UNC on Tuesday.
"I've been waiting for it. I'm excited," she said.
"It hasn't hit me yet. I'm going for sure now, though."
"I was getting tired of soccer" after her senior year at Waccamaw. She's been playing since she was in the second grade.
"Over the summer, I didn't play. Then, I played in the North-South game and got MVP."
That's when she realized "I need to play."
After calling Freeman and going to the camp at UNC, "He [Dorrance] said I want her." And that was certainly OK with Player.
She will major in early education at UNC and is excited about that too. "It will be fun to be a teacher."
When she was just a little girl in second grade, Mr. Murphy got a team together. "We all just clicked," Player said.
"The same group of girls started in the second grade. We've been together ever since."
"Soccer is my thing. It's part of me."
Shortly before she started playing soccer, Player learned how to water ski when she was just 5 or 6 years old.
Then she added wake boarding and surfing.
"I love boating."
She also loves being around a lot of people.
"After college, I'd love to come back here. I love Pawleys."
Mom and dad Selena and Dean Player, and sister McKendree Player, "are just very proud. Very excited," Selena Player said.
Both parents went to a lot of travel ball games with Taylor and "He and I have spent many pleasant hours in the car."
McKendree is in the band at Waccamaw, so that's involved a lot of travel, too, Selena Player said.