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    PEELER: No More Method to Pack's Soccer Madness
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

     

    RALEIGH, N.C. Method Road Stadium will always hold a special place in my heart, but not because it was a great location for a soccer game.

     

    In late summer of 1984, the stadium opened with a nice amount of publicity, a long-awaited replacement for Lee Field, which was squeezed between Lee Dormitory and Doak Field.

     

    Back then, I was a sophomore at NC State, and had just been lured to work for Technician, NC State’s student newspaper. Still a mechanical engineering major at the time, I needed a hobby to get my mind off Chemistry 105. Shortly after I attended my first Technician party on Avent Ferry Road, I was hooked on journalism.

     

    My first assignment was to cover the fledgling women’s soccer team.

     

    Technically, it was the first year of varsity competition for the women, though they played a full schedule of games the year before against mostly club teams from other schools in the area. Today, that preview season is not recognized as part of the history of the program. Men’s head coach Larry Gross served as the head coach for the women as well, ably assisted by a hard-to-understand Argentine named George Tarantini.

     

    Still, playing on a lush new field in what Gross called “the best stadium in the country,” both the men’s and women’s teams turned into national powers. The men not only had a trio of outstanding Nigerian imports _ Sam Okpodu, Sam Owoh and Chibuzer “Chuck” Ehilegbu but it also benefitted from having four members of the U.S. national team: sophomore Sadri Gjonbalaj and freshmen Chris Peat, Arnold Siegmund and the national high school player of the year, forward Tab Ramos. The men started that season ranked No. 3 in the nation.

     

    They opened the new stadium on Aug. 31, 1984, with a double-header. NC State played Winthrop and North Carolina played Philadelphia Textile, then a soccer power, in the second game. The next day, the local teams switched opponents. State won its two games by a combined 7-1 score.

     

    For the women’s team, Gross had to rely on nine freshmen starters, but in the second official game in the program’s history the Pack beat No. 2 ranked George Mason, a team that had played in the NCAA championship game the year before. The defense, led by goalie Barbara Wickstrand, shut out its first 11 opponents and allowed only one goal in its first 15 contests. The 16th game was a season-ending 4-2 loss to Central Florida the team gave up 80 percent of its scoring in one 90-minute contest. The freshman core perhaps forgotten names like Wickstrand, Ingrid Lium, Kathy Walsh, Amy Gray, Tracy Goza, Beryl Bruffey and Sandy Bannerman -- was an excellent foundation for the program.

     

    Four years later, Gross’ team won the ACC Championship and played for the NCAA title, thanks in great part to an All-America player named Laura Kerrigan, who arrived in the fall of 1985.

     

    Covering that inaugural women’s team in 1984 was a bit challenging for me since I had (A) never written something for publication before and (2) never seen a soccer game in my life. The first story, a season preview, wasn’t very good. Not a single sentence remained intact in the edited version.

     

    Back then, the Method Road Stadium was a shiny new addition to the far western reaches of main campus. But it never recovered from the fact that it was named for the street, a relatively minor spur off Western Boulevard that ran parallel to the west end zone, and not Sullivan Drive, the road that connected the stadium to west campus. Nearly a quarter century after it opened, students were still confused about its whereabouts.

     

    “We would ask our friends to come our games, and no one had any idea where Method Road was,” said Tami Krzeszewski, a senior captain on this year’s team. “And those that didn’t have cars didn’t want to ride Wolfline out there.”

     

    Today, that once gleaming home of NC State soccer goes the way of Riddick Stadium for football and Reynolds Coliseum for men’s basketball. At 7 p.m., the NC State women open the 2008 season against Wofford, the official debut of the NC State Soccer Stadium, centrally located beside the new Curtis and Jacqueline Dail Softball Stadium and behind Reynolds Coliseum.

     

    “I can’t tell you how excited we are to have this new place to play,” said senior captain Lindsay Vera. “It is so much easier for us, because we can literally walk from our lockerroom to the field, instead of having to get on a van and go over to Method.

     

    “It’s nice knowing that people can walk to our games, or just drift in from campus.”

     

    You’d think that Kerrigan, now in her 11th season as the Wolfpack women’s head coach, would be a little wistful about leaving the field where she played all her home games as an All-American player. But she’s not.

     

    “Oh, man, I have been waiting for this, the soccer alumni have been waiting for this, the current players have been waiting for this for such a long time,” Kerrigan said. “It would have been absolutely tremendous to play on a field like this, right here in the middle of campus. Method was a great surface, but this is a better location.

     

    “Some of the alumni are coming in this weekend for a reunion, and I have already had some of them say Why didn’t we have this when I was here?’”

     

    Kerrigan points to something she noticed when the team played its spring game on the new field back in May.

     

    “We started with a good crowd here, but it wasn’t even close to what we had when the game ended,” she said. “People heard the noise and came in to see what was going on. They must have liked it, because they stayed until it was over. That’s the kind of thing we are counting on.”

     

    For the player, being in the center of campus might not even be the best thing about the new stadium. Now, they get to play under the lights, something that was previously only possible when home contests were moved even farther away to the SAS Soccer Complex in Cary.

     

    “All our other home games were like 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, which was not good for us,” Vera said. “One, it was the hottest time of the day and, two, kids were still in class. Half our friends would say, Good luck, I am not going to be able to make it.’”

     

    Now, at a place that is centrally located and brightly lit, they can.

     

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.


     

     

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