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August 4, 2008

Bond between Dorrance, Hamm strong as ever

ONEONTA _ Mia Hamm just had to ask.

"What took you guys so long?" Hamm asked as she flashed a smile to open the presentation of her former U.S. National and North Carolina women's soccer coach, Anson Dorrance.

Hamm wasn't talking to Builder selection Dorrance or Veterans pick Hugo Perez, who were inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Sunday. Instead, she threw the light-hearted jab in the general direction of the Oneonta shrine.

In other words, why did it take the Soccer Hall so long to elect Dorrance?

Good question.

Dorrance will begin his 30th season as the Tar Heels' head coach this fall. His resume includes 18 NCAA championships at North Carolina and a FIFA World Cup title in 1991.

Four of those college championships came with Hamm in a Tar Heels uniform, the last in 1993. She also led the 1991 World Cup team to victory.

Hamm fought back tears as she set up Dorrance for his induction speech, further illustrating a special bond the two have shared for the past 22 years.

Their relationship started well before Hamm became a household name, before the college and international championships, before the Gatorade commercials with M.J., before her marriage to baseball star Nomar Garciaparra, and before she helped draw a record Induction Ceremony crowd estimated at 5,000 as a member of the Class of 2007.

Dorrance, who presented Hamm last year, caught his first glimpse of the future Hall of Famer when she was age 14. One year later, she became the youngest player to make the U.S. National women's soccer roster.

"He created an environment that nurtured strengths and appreciated differences," said Hamm, who completed high school a year early and enrolled at UNC at age 16. "Because of Anson, there's an entire generation of strong, confident, intelligent, unique, competitive and independent women."

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