An American flag whips violently over the women’s soccer match between UNC and UCLA. The Tar Heels wear white. The Bruins are in navy and powder blue.
Before kick-off both teams rush onto the field to warm up. UNC players run together, jumping, singing and dancing. They get to the other side and grin hugely while they dance and laugh. The Tar Heels split into four lines. After warming up they huddle around their coach.
Clad in sharply pleated khakis, a bright white shirt, a navy and Carolina blue striped tie, and a navy hat, he confidently waves his clipboard.
“Welcome to Fetzer Field, located on the beautiful campus of the University of North Carolina.”
The Tar Heels break their huddle and stand on the sideline. Everyone not in the starting eleven makes a tunnel for the starters to sprint through onto the field. After the second player is called she rushes out and immediately high-fives, low-fives, then fist bumps the girl already on the field.
The booming announcer enthusiastically calls UCLA’s lineup. Heels and Bruins take the field after jogging into position.
“Great crowd here at Fetzer — Carolina Fever and the band!”
A man opens his laptop and a new word document.
UNC scores a goal early, unassisted off the foot of number 6. Another follows after the half from when number 12 hits a deflection off of the goalie into the net. Two to zero.
UCLA counters off a through ball with eight and a half minutes left in the match. Two to one.
“She takes it to the box and beats the keeper to the left… and on the ground as the goalie laid out, but couldn’t get to it,” the announcer yells.
“Carolina goal,” the PA system calls. Three to one.
Receiving the ball softly with her feet, Katie Bowen pushes it to her left. A tall girl clad in blue follows from behind. She catches up and forces her eleven-pronged cleat into Bowen’s knee. The two drift towards the ground. Bowen is struck just before she hits the striped grass. The girl in blue swiftly smashes her fist into Bowen’s chest.
Condemning yells and boos soar out of the crowd. Staring eyes and furled brows face the field waiting for a call, any call.
“Whoa,” the press box collectively exclaims.
“She flat-out punched her. I haven’t seen that in a women’s game,” the team’s communications guy states in awe.
A man in a navy Yahoo! Sports hat briskly rises from his seat and stares at the replay of the tackle on a small monitor near the announcer.
A short man in a yellow shirt with black pinstripes jogs towards number 14, the girl in blue, the perpetrator. The referee swiftly reaches into his pocket and raises a red card.
Fourteen, who is picking herself up off the ground, pauses in disbelief for a split-second. She interlocks her hands on the back of her head. Then she sprints off the field. She knows she deserves it.
The scoreboard still reads 3-1. Beneath it sit 22 metal banners. One for each UNC Women’s Soccer National championship.
“It would be better to have a crest on the sleeve with the number of national championships they’ve won,” the announcer belts.
“Let’s go Tar Heels,” the crowd echoes.
The final whistle blows. Pandemonium everywhere. The players scream and hug. The fans yell and high-five. The writers and statisticians scramble to finish their duties.
Players run across the field to join the fans. The band plays the alma mater. Fans link arms. Writers type.
The players pair off and tap feet. Right, left side of right, back of left. Side of right, left, right, side of left, back of right.
Over and over until the final line.
“Go to hell, Duke!”
In the press box a middle-aged, rosy-cheeked woman plays “Carolina in My Mind,” over the PA system.
The crowd starts to exit. Lines of smiling faces form between sets of shiny silver seats as the sun stares brightly over Chapel Hill.
The communications guy frantically punches numbers to finalize the stats he couldn’t update during the contest. “The Pac 12 wants the videos of the game by 6pm for a broadcast and they emailed me just know. I’m not even in charge of that, and you’re supposed to let them know at least two days in advance.”
Clicks emanate from two students typing summaries for the campus newspaper.
“Do you know who you want to talk to?” the communications guy asks.
“Yeah, I think so.”
The three leave in a flurry, phones and pens in hand.
The stands are empty.
The UCLA team jogs back to their sideline one more time and finishes their sprints long after most of the Tar Heels are in their locker room.
Huddling around their coach, the Bruins break dejectedly. Dispersed across the field, the team trudges back to the locker room.
A woman in a yellow shirt swings open the door to the press box and looks around. She grabs a cooler that was filled with water bottles that only holds ice now. The door swings shut. A cloud rolls over the field, covering the stadium in a momentary shadow.