Anson Dorrance has noticed the trend.
In fact, the man who has coached the North Carolina women’s soccer team for the past 45 seasons takes considerable pride in it.
After Emily Fox and Crystal Dunn were last week named to the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Dorrance became responsible for sending four former Tar Heels left backs to play for the nation’s top international soccer team.
“It’s almost like we own that position for the full national team,” said Dorrance, whose former players Lori Chalupny and Gibsonia native and Pine-Richland graduate Meghan Klingenberg also reached the U.S. Women’s National Team roster.
Before too long, Dorrance may be adding a fifth name to that list.
Tessa Dellarose, a 2022 Brownsville graduate, capped her freshman year at North Carolina earlier this month by helping the United States U-20 Women’s Youth National Team qualify for the 2024 U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a runner-up finish at the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s World Championship.
“We think Tessa will be another one that will challenge and show the United States that she can also hold down that position,” Dorrance said. “We’re very excited about her and, also, we just like her. She’s just a nice, nice kid. She’s got great character and I have just huge admiration for her.”
A 5-foot-5 left back, Dellarose played in 23 games and started 21 in a row for the Tar Heels, who fell to UCLA, 3-2, in the NCAA Division I national championship game this fall. She averaged 57 minutes per match, playing the full 90 minutes against Virginia Tech and Duke, and recorded an assist against UCLA in a regular-season match.
Dellarose, who was named third-team All-ACC and selected to the conference all freshman squad, went on to score a goal and appear in all five games for the United States in the CONCACAF U-20 World Championships in the Dominican Republic.
“Of course, playing at North Carolina and playing D-I here in the states is definitely high-level, but playing on the international level, too, is just a different game in and of itself and there’s a lot to take away from that,” Dellarose said. “I think just the pressure of it all as well, I think, it’s a good thing just having that experience of playing on an international stage for your country.
“Playing for a CONCACAF championship, I’m definitely taking that experience back to college,” she added. “It’s going to be really valuable especially going into the NCAA tournament, the ACC tournament.”
A Grindstone, Fayette County, native, Dellarose played four seasons for the Riverhounds Development Academy in addition to her time as a standout on Brownsville’s girls soccer team.
Dorrance said Dellarose initially got on his radar through her time playing for the Riverhounds development team.
“We really liked her for all the right reasons,” said Dorrance, who has won 22 national championships at North Carolina and was head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1986 until 1994, guiding the country to its first World Cup title in 1991. “She was left-sided, which of course is wonderful for any team that wants to play the ball out of the back consistently.
“She was also incredibly disciplined and ambitious and that also attracted us to her,” Dorrance added. “Then we really liked her family and so she checked absolutely every single box.”
Dellarose said she is “attacking minded” and her physicality and athleticism helped her excel in North Carolina’s 1-3-5-2 system as a freshman.
“I was a forward years ago. Now that I’m a defender, I still have those attacking tendencies,” she said. “I also like to combine a lot. I’m a pass and move type of person, not so much a direct big ball over the top type of person.
“I’m strong and I’m fast. I like to play off that. I like to just compete as an athlete most importantly.”
Dorrance said he is excited to watch Dellarose develop in her second season at North Carolina this fall.
“We know she’s going to do everything we ask,” he said. “We also know she’s going to be incredibly positive for team chemistry. We just know that we have a wonderful women’s soccer citizen in Tessa Dellarose but also a hell of a player. We’re excited she’s a Tar Heel, and we are looking forward to watching how she’s going to contribute this entire fall.
“I think based on her commitment to her craft, she can play at the highest level.”
And Dellarose has quite a role model in Klingenberg.
A former Pine-Richland standout, Klingenberg advanced from North Carolina to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She earned 74 caps, tallied three goals and won the FIFA World Cup in 2015 as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“Klingenberg, like Tessa, was a left back for the United States full national team,” Dorrance said. “She ended up being the starting left back and considered one of the best left backs in the event when the United States won the World Championship in 2015. They both play the same position. Klingenberg is actually right-footed, but still plays off the left side for Portland in the [National Women’s Soccer League].
“I love everything about our connection with Pittsburgh.”
Dellarose said she is well aware of Klingenberg’s career and hopes to follow in her footsteps from her tenure with the U.S. Women’s National team to her career in the NWSL.
“She’s just had a really great career,” Dellarose said of Klingenberg. “Especially — kind of that mirror of being WPIAL, going to North Carolina, having youth national experience — definitely showed me that it could be done and that it has been done by her and it could be done again. She’s definitely a great person to look up to and definitely an inspiration. She’s still doing it, and she’s done it. You just know that, OK, well this could happen for me, too.”
And Dellarose is hoping to someday provide that kind of inspiration for WPIAL players as well.
“There are a lot of places in the United States that are a lot bigger that produce a lot more talent,” she said. “I think at the end of the day being from a small town and getting the opportunity to play at an international level and play at North Carolina hopefully shows fellow girls, or boys, that it can happen for them, too.”