The American and George Mason men's soccer teams that meet in today's NCAA South Atlantic Regional final at American revolve offensively around high-scoring strikers. The same is true of one of the four women's teams playing for the NCAA championship this weekend at George Mason.
North Carolina (17-1-1), which plays Colorado College (16-4-0), today at 2, is led by April Heinrichs. Heinrichs has 18 goals and 13 assists. None of the other semifinalists -- including George Mason (16-2-1), which faces top-seeded Massachusetts (16-0-0) at noon -- has a player with more than 13 goals or 30 points.
"I guess I have a sense of where to be and when to be there," said Heinrichs, a junior from Littleton, Colo., who was national player of the year in 1984.
Still, each of the other schools has reason to believe the title is within its grasp.
Massachusetts has given up only two goals this season. George Mason has the home-field advantage. Colorado College is the decided underdog with an enrollment of 1,850, but has gotten this far and believes it can keep on winning.
The Tar Heels have won the last three national titles, although that hasn't helped Coach Anson Dorrance, or the team overcome anonymity.
"My wife recognizes me when I drive up in the driveway," said Dorrance. "This is a non-revenue sport. The circle of people who know you are the coaches and the people in your athletic department."
Less anonymous are Michael Brady and Sam Sumo, the talented strikers who lead American (16-2-2), and George Mason (18-3), respectively. Brady, a two-time all-America, has scored 23 goals, and Sumo, a freshman from Liberia, has 24.
But if the regular-season game is an indication (American won, 1-0, in double overtime), the potent forwards could be nullified by defense and a muddy field. The Oct. 23 game nearly ended in a standoff because George Mason's Mike Reynolds closely marked Brady and the Eagles' Troy Regis shadowed Sumo throughout.
Because today's 1 p.m. game will be played under similar circumstances, the supporting players could be significant in determining which team advances to the NCAA quarterfinals.
For American, that would mean the three starters who have played together since high school. Regis, mid-fielder David Nakhid and forward Barry Henderson all attended St. Mary's College (high school) in Trinidad. "We've played together for so long, I know exactly what they are going to do," said Nakhid, a junior. "I know exactly where to be to support them."
George Mason's four seniors -- stopper back Chris Short, Reynolds, midfielder Fred Thompson, and forward Andy Hay -- all played together in suburban Toronto.