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N.C. Wesleyan soccer coach talks World Cup experience

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Thursday, July 11, 2019

N.C. Wesleyan women’s soccer coach Beverly Biancur was 4,000 miles away from home when the group chat she’s in with some of her former players started to heat up.

For some context, Biancur and the Bishops took a training trip to Italy a couple years ago where they played against AS Roma B. The match was tied at halftime, but when several players were inserted into the Roma lineup after the break the match shifted.

“It was a really cool experience,” Biancur said. “We were tied and at halftime these three girls run up from the practice field and it was obvious just by the way they moved that they were special.

“One girl dribbled past my All-American and shot a laser on net. My girl turns around to me and asks, ‘What do I do about that?’ Those three girls play on the national team for Italy now.”

Biancur got to see that trio up close again when the Bishops coach traveled to France in June to watch the recent World Cup.

She spent a little more than a week France where she traveled about the country and attended six matches, including three U.S. women matches. She also saw Argentina play Italy (“You should of seen the group chat,” Biancur said) and Scotland. She also saw Norway play South Korea, as well as a Brazil match where Marta scored her record 17th World Cup goal.

The Bishops coach was there as part of the Harvard Sports International Organization, which helps collegiate coaches from around the country attend the World Cup. Biancur, who is entering her 12th season as the Bishops head coach, traveled with former NCWC goalkeeper Vanessa Batchelor.

Batchelor used the opportunity to interview national team coaches and players as part of a video she is making for the Harvard Organization.

As a lifelong fan, player and coach, the experience was impressive, Biancur said. She marveled at the quality of the games, the talent level of the players, and the speed of the game. The final match she attended was USA-Sweden, a 2-0 American win in Group play.

“It was great to be there,” Biancur said. “I had not been to an international game without having to work as a coach, and so to just go and appreciate it as a fan of the sport was special.”

She left marvelling at how the USWNT pulled off its dominant run to the title, as well as finding inspiration for her own team.

As another small-world nugget, USWNT coach Jill Ellis and Biancur attended the same high school (Robinson High School in Virginia), where they were two years apart. They were both coached by now-retired Jim Rike.

“She was two years behind me and I only went there for two years so I didn’t know her that well,” Biancur said. “But we were both there and even had the same coach.”

Biancur made sure to pay attention to Ellis’ coaching style during the World Cup. She watched as Ellis weathered criticism for her decision-making, though each of the moves proved to be the right choices.

“All of it, the way she handled injury management, rest and recovery, and the tactics when she got ahead,” Biancur said. “(Ellis) would drop into a defensive posture with a lead because she had a lot of confidence in her defense and goalkeeper. Publically she took some heat for that because a lot of people thought that would be an Achilles heel for the team.”

Biancur hopes that she can bring back some of that experience to her young Bishops team that graduated 24 players over the past two years. Biancur said she is always learning about the game, and studied those tactical decisions that she watched unfold with a close eye.

“It gets you thinking tactically, what we saw from the different coaches,” Biancur said. “Hopefully, I can implement and teach that hunger you saw in the Americans, Argentinians, and South Koreans. That desire to not give up a goal is something that I think is kind of diminished about the younger generation, not really pushing that edge, that all or nothing mentality.”

Biancur hopes that the World Cup revs up the sport and bring more young girls to the game. She said that she saw numerous young club teams in attendance, and hopefully the passion drips down to the younger, next wave of athletes.

“I think the sport is growing tremendously. You’re seeing girls who are competitive and want to win and they aren’t just doing it to wear the gear,” Biancur said. “It’s becoming a very, very well-coached and organized sport, and I just feel like it’s starting to rise up.”

Next up for Biancur and the Bishops is the college season which begins in late August. The first NCWC home match is Sept. 14 against Bridgewater. The team is also celebrating its 25th anniversary of the Final Four team, and will hold a ceremony on Oct. 12, a home match against Salem which also falls on senior night and parents weekend.

The Bishops are also planning another international team trip to Italy in 2021.