As anybody who plays the stock market can tell you, big risks can yield big returns or spectacular losses.
Tracy Noonan of North Andover took a king-sized risk in the spring of 1991, when she decided to play at the University of North Carolina, the preeminent women’s soccer program in the country. Noonan was recruited to play at North Carolina but the school wasn’t offering any scholarship money.
As the starting goalie for a team about to play in the Final 4, Noonan, a senior with a year of soccer eligibility left, couldn’t be happier with her decision to spurn Dartmouth and Harvard for Chapel Hill.
The 23-1-1 Tar Heels, attempting to win their ninth straight national title, take on 19-3 UConn in one semifinal, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., in Portland, Ore.
Notre Dame, 21-0-1, plays Portland, 16-5, in the other semifinal matchup. The championship game is Sunday at 4 p.m.
“I’m really excited,” said Noonan. “It’s going to be a good weekend.”
Since originally she wasn’t one of UNC’s priority recruits, there was the possibility that she’d never get much of a chance to play.
“It was a huge risk,” admitted Noonan, who fell in love with the school on her visit. “I knew Shelley (Finger) was their top recruit and I was the backup.”
Like the major back surgery which nearly ended her career in high school, having to beat out a more highly-touted scholarship recruit was just another challenge.
This fall, Noonan split time with Finger, Carolina’s tourney goalie the past three seasons. Each would play one half. Noonan got the nod to become the full-time starter for the NCAA tourney.
“I came in with no expectations this season,” said Noonan, the Eagle-Tribune 1990 Player of the Year.
“In the past, I put pressure on myself. I took the attitude that whatever happens, happens. If I play…great. If not, it’s the same as always. My confidence was lacking in the past.”
After redshirting as a freshman, Noonan put together a fine season in 1992, seeing action in 16 games and posting a 0.39 goals-against-average. Last season wasn’t as successful, she saw action in just five of 24 games and her goals-against-average shot up to 1.32.
Instead of feeling Carolina Blue, Noonan, a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection this fall, improved her fitness and consistency and her goals-against-average dropped. As a matter of fact, late in the season her 0.26 goals-against average led the country.
That’s gone up after 4-2 and 3-1 tourney wins. Though, the latter came against Tobacco Road neighbor Duke, which had snapped Carolina’s famed 101-game unbeaten streak late in the regular season.
Noonan’s first three years “we were winning 4-0, 5-0, 6-0. I might be lucky to touch the ball. This year the goalies are factoring in. We’re starting to see more shots. It’s good. I like to have to earn my pay,” she said.
She’s earned her pay and a good deal of scholarship money with some stellar work in net and in the classroom. An academic scholarship and a 3-year tuition athletic scholarship have covered most of her costs.
The academic scholarship was no gift to help a talented athlete. She made the ACC Honor Roll, majoring in biology, no less.
After another national title or two, the former Scarlet Knight great hopes to embark on a career as a physical therapist.
Article used with permission