When sports fans think of the Atlantic Coast Conference, their first thought would probably involve basketball, with teams like national champion Duke and former champions North Carolina and N.C. State.
What fans may not realize is that the ACC also has a proud tradition in men?s soccer ? four ACC teams are ranked in the Top 12 nationally.
USF (2-0) will face two ACC teams in this weekend?s Duke/Adidas Classic tournament in Durham, N.C. The Bulls play N.C. State today at 5 p.m. and close the tournament with a match versus the host Blue Devils Saturday night at 7:30.
N.C. State is coming off a 3-12-3 record last season and has already lost the first two matches of this year, 2-0 to Northeastern Saturday and 2-1 to Massachusetts Sunday. However, USF assistant coach Jim Felix warned against complacency.
?(They?re always) dangerous, (will) always be a handful,? Felix said. ?And they?re going to be more dangerous because they?re 0-2.
?They lost both games at their place, and they certainly don?t want to go to Duke, down the road, and lose two there too.?
Two-time ACC Coach of the Year George Tarantini has made six NCAA tournament appearances with the Wolfpack, including a Final Four trip in 1990, and his alumni include former national captain Tab Ramos.
Although the current N.C. State team does not measure up to past squads, Felix realizes the danger of looking ahead to future opponents.
?When you start looking by teams, that?s when you get yourself in trouble,? Felix said. ?That?s the way it is in any sport.?
The Bulls have momentum on their side, as they posted 1-0 wins against Lafayette and Florida International at the season-opening USF Reebok Classic this past weekend.
?We basically exorcised two demons,? said Felix. ?We couldn?t hold on to leads last year ? and we didn?t have shutouts.?
Sophomore goalkeeper Troy Perkins, the tournament Most Valuable Player, was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week Tuesday and he led six Bulls ? including three defenders ? on the All-Tournament team.
The Blue Devils began the season ranked No. 13, and were picked to finish fifth in the ACC, after a 15-6 record and third-place finish in 2000.
Led by 24-year veteran coach John Rennie, Duke won the NCAA championship in 1986, has had 23 consecutive winning seasons and has made three consecutive NCAA appearances. The Blue Devils lost seven seniors from last year?s squad, including all-time leading scorer Ali Curtis and one of the best midfielders in school history, Robert Russell.
Duke started the 2001 season with a 3-0 victory against Massachusetts Saturday, but fell 1-0 to Northeastern Sunday.
Felix said the Bulls will not be overawed by the Duke tradition and aura.
?At the end of the day, they (the Blue Devils) still put on their shorts the same way we do and tie their boots the same way we do,? he said.
Khari Williams covers men’s soccer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org