Once again, it's a kick for UNC star Schwoy Stress turns to fun for McDonogh alum

October 10, 1997|By Gary Davidson | Gary Davidson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Laurie Schwoy's transition fron high school soccer standout to college star appeared seamless. A Baltimore native, she earned NCAA Division I Freshman of the Year honors en route to helping perennial-power North Carolina regain its national women's championship.

But her stylish, determined play belied some difficulties Schwoy experienced in her first year in Chapel Hill. "Last year was the longest year of my life," she said. "I've never been through anything like I did last year.

"Preseason, you're trying to assimilate into this team. It was hard mentally and physically. You don't want to disappoint anyone. I didn't want to disappoint my coaches or my teammates, my friends and family back home. I had a lot of pressure. I put it upon myself. But things worked out for the best."

Schwoy will return home with the top-ranked Tar Heels (11-0-1, 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) for the first time tonight for a 7 o'clock ACC match at No. 19 Maryland (6-3-2, 2-0).

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, 2,400 tickets had been sold for the game at 3,500-seat Ludwig Field, which has never been sold out for a men's or women's match. School officials say they anticipate issuing some additional standing-room passes.

Contributing to Schwoy's freshman-year adjustments was her move from her familiar striker position to central midfield.

But what a difference a year has made. Schwoy, who scored 192 goals in four years at McDonogh, has found the center of the field invigorating and she relishes the time spent with her teammates on and off the field.

"I'm trying to live a little bit more," Schwoy said. "Last year, it was totally all soccer and it was really kind of stressful."

North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance, who has guided the Tar Heels to 14 national titles in 16 years, has never been reluctant to use superlatives when describing his players, but his comments about Schwoy are particularly effusive.

"What a player!" Dorrance gushed. He is the winningest women's coach ever with a 401-16-11 (.950) mark in 19 years.

"There are very few players I've ever coached -- and I've certainly had the privilege of coaching outstanding ones -- that could do all three things you require your midfield personalities to do, which was to attack -- and she had certainly done that her whole life -- but also playmake and then the wonderful surprise for all of us was her defensive presence. She's a remarkable defender, a tenacious tackler with a great work rate, outstanding in the air.

"Laurie's freshman year was sort of a dream come true for us. It's very hard for a freshman to come into our program and impact because there's a huge responsibility to play for us because the expectations are so high."

Tar Heels senior forward Robin Confer said Schwoy has earned not only her teammates' respect, but has become a leader because of how hard she works, particularly in the defensive end.

"She was a little shy at first but after we watched her at practice, her heart and the way she worked, she fit in right away," Confer said.

"She plays with more heart than anyone I've seen in awhile. She leads by the way she plays out there.

"When I see her going up and winning a ball in the air -- she wins it cleanly -- that just motivates us all to work hard, and she's a defensive presence in the midfield.

"She's all over the place, working [hard]."

In addition to her talent on the field, Schwoy has emerged as one of the team's leading pranksters.

"I would have to consider myself part of that," Schwoy said. But she continues to produce. She has nine goals and eight assists -- including three game-winners -- in 1997, following 12 goals, 15 assists and five game-winners in UNC's 25-1 freshman year.

"Practices are fun," she said. "I look forward to them -- not usually what we do, because it's a lot of hard work -- but being with the girls. We have a lot of characters on the team, always talking about what we did last night.

"Our coaches talk just like they're our age. Honestly. So they encourage jokes and making fun of people. I just act a little crazy at times and goofy, but I'm not going to incriminate myself with details."

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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