|School – University of North Carolina|
|Conference – Atlantic Coast|
|Coach – Carlos Somoano – (Sixth Season)|
Background – North Carolina was 15-2-3 overall last year. The Tar Heels won the ACC Coastal Division with a 6-1-1 mark. They had signature wins over Notre Dame, UNCW, Syracuse, and Coastal Carolina. UNC was awarded the number five seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the third round of play where their season came to an end when they were topped 1-0 by Creighton. The Tar Heels were ranked as the number nine team in the country last year in both the NSCAA and College Soccer News season ending polls.
Defender Jonathan Campbell was named a 2015 All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News. Campbell, midfielder Ray George and defender Jordan McCrary were named to the NSCAA Division I All-South Region Team. Campbell was also a 2015 All-ACC First Team selection. George and midfielder Omar Holness and forward Alan Winn were 2015 All-ACC Second Team selections. Forward Tucker Hume who led the Tar Heels in scoring was an All-ACC Third Team selection and defender Alex Comsia was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team.
North Carolina is among the premier programs in the country having earned a berth in the NCAA Tourney a total of twenty-three times including sixteen times in the last seventeen seasons. The recent dominance of the program is reflected in the fact that the Tar Heels have earned a top-sixteen seed in the NCAA Tourney six times in the last eight seasons.
UNC won he national title in 2001 and 2011. The Tar Heels have advanced to the College Cup (Final Four) six times and to the Elite Eight ten times. They also have advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen seven out of the past eight season.
Offense – The Tar Heels return players who netted thirty-one of the thirty-nine goals they scored last year. The top three goals scorers, forwards senior Tucker Hume (11g, 5a), and juniors Alan Winn (6g, 4a) and Zach Wright (5g, 5a) are all slated to return in 2016 along with redshirt forward Andy Lopez (3g, 1a).
Major reloading will be required in the midfield due to the graduation of Raby George (4g, 2a) who was a four-year starter and AlexOlofson (2g, 3a) who was a three-year starter and the decision of Omar Holness (1g, 1a) who was the fifth overall selection in the MLS SuperDraft to forgo his senior season to take his game to the professional ranks. Junior David October (0g, 4a) is the lone returning starter in the midfield. Senior Warren Marshall (2g, 0a), redshirt senior Nico Melo (1g, 2a) and sophomore Dominic Jensen are among other returning midfielders who should be in the hunt for a greater role in 2016.
Midfielder Drew Murphy who transfers in from Santa Barbara where he started in forty games over the past three seasons should contribute immediately. Freshmen midfielders Cam Lindsey, Jack Skahan, and Jeremy Kelly are highly regarded recruits who should also compete for playing time.
Defense – Last year the Tar Heels held a very competitive slate of opponents to a total of only fifteen goals. They will enter the 2016 campaign without the services of backs Jonathan Campbell (1g, 4a) and Jordan McCrary (0g, 5a) due to graduation. Both were four year starters who will be missed.
Returning backs who should play a key role in 2016 include senior Colton Storm (2g, 3a) and sophomore Alex Comsia who ware starters last year and senior Walker Hume who was a starter in 2014 but missed the 2015 season due to a foot injury.
Highly regarded freshman backs Mauricio Pineda and Auston Trusty should also be in the mix for a starting spot. Redshirt sophomore James Pyle who had a goals against average of 0.67 and six shutouts in 2015 returns in goal for North Carolina.
Newcomers – Five Star Recruiting Class
Coach Somoano stated, "We have brought in another impressive group of young men that will proudly represent the University of North Carolina."
Nathaiel Adamolekun – Forward – Spicewood, Texas – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 17th player in the class of 2016. NSCAA All-American. Member Jamaican National Team. Plays for Orlando City Academy.
Jeremy Kelly – Midfielder – Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 82nd player in the 2016 class. Played for the Capital Area Railhawks Academy.
Cam Lindley – Midfielder – Carmel, Indiana – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number one player in the 2016 class.NSCAA 2015 Youth Boy's National Player of the Year. Member of U-20 U.S. Men's National Team. Played for Chicago Fire's U-18 Team.
Giovanni Montesdeoca – Forward – Dallas, Texas – LoneStar High School – Played for FC Dallas Academy.
Drew Murphy – Midfielder – Palos Verdes, California – Transfer from UC Santa Barbara where he started forty games. All-Big West Second team selection in 2014. Member of 2013 Big West All-Freshman Team. Played for the La Galaxy Academy.
Mauricio Pineda – Defender – Bolingbrook, Illinois – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number five player in the 2016 class. NSCAA All-American. Played with the Chicago Fire U-18 team. Member of U.S. U-18 and U-20 National Teams.
Drew Romig – Goalkeeper – Midlothian, Virginia – Ranked as the number 62nd player in the class of 2016. Played for the Richmond Kickers USL Pro Team. U.S. National Team U-14, U-15 and U-17 member. Played for Richmond Kickers Academy.
Jack Skahan – Midfielder – Memphis, Tennessee – Ranked as the number 34 player in the class of 2016 by College Soccer News. Played with the Philadelphia Union Academy. U.S. U-16 National Team member.
Auston Trusty – Defender – Media, Pennsylvania – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 26 player in the class of 2016. Played with the U.S. U-19 Men's National Team. NSCAA All-American. Played for U-18 Philadelphia Union Academy.
Prognosis for 2016 – Carlos Somoano begins his sixth season as the UNC head coach in 2016 with a .756 winning percentage which is among the best among all active coaches in Division I. North Carolina has continued to be a program with an identity, established system of play, and winning culture under Somoano's direction.
The Tar Heels have some gaps to plug in the midfield and in the back but they also will welcome to Chapel Hill what looks to be the top recruiting class in the country. The recruiting class is not only talented but it also addresses the areas of greatest need. If the newcomers emerge quickly the Tar Heels should be very good.
An imposing group of forwards return including Tucker Hume, Zach Wright, and Alan Winn. As a result the attack should be very healthy. The midfiield will be inexperienced but should improve and gel as the season progresses. However, there may be a learning curve which could be challenging in the early going.
The departure of backs Jonathan Campbell and Jordan McCrary no doubt creates a void talent and experience wise. The return of a healthy Walker Hume who missed the 2015 season due to injury is a big plus in filling that gap along with the retun of senior Colton Storm who was a starter last year and sophomore Alex Comisa who started twelve contests.
The Tar Heels look to be solid in goal due to the return of redshirt sophomore netminder James Pyle whose performance between the pipes last year indicates he can hold his own at the highest level of play.
More than anything else, UNC's success in 2016 will likely depend on their ability to retool the midfield due to the loss of three very highly regarded and experienced starters. However, the addition of transfer Drew Murphy from UCSB who should hit the ground running and freshman Cam Lindley who was the NSCAA 2015 Boys National Player of the Year may prove to be just what the doctor ordered in that regard.
The Tar Heels have some gaps to plug and the competition in the ACC, which had seven teams in the NCAA Tourney field last year, will again be fierce. However, conventional wisdom indicates the ceiling for North Carolina should again be very high in 2016.