His father, naturally, thought Anson would make a fine lawyer. He began law school, but his coaching schedule interfered. In 1977, after a year as an assistant with the North Carolina men's soccer team, he was named head coach. Meanwhile, in 1976, Anson and M'Liss had joined the Mormon church and had a second wedding ceremony. "It was a temple marriage, which is an eternal marriage—not broken by death," M'Liss says. "It puts things in perspective."
M'Liss is standing at her kitchen counter cutting up red peppers for dinner. It's a Wednesday night, three days after the Virginia game. The university was informed of the lawsuit 16 days before the suit was formally filed last August, and M'Liss says she became a wreck waiting for the news to become public. She'd lie awake anticipating the 4 a.m. delivery of the newspaper, hear it land, then walk outside in the dark to see if the nightmare had begun. "I want to protect my own, including Anson," she says. "I have total faith in everything that's good and right about him." The lawsuit mentions a rumor—later denied by U.S. Soccer Federation officials—that Dorrance was forced to resign from the national team in 1994 because he had been having an affair with a player. M'Liss has never asked him about that or any of the charges in the lawsuit. "Anson and I know each other very, very well," she says. "I don't have any doubts."
Yes, she says, the suit is "shocking" and "terrifying" to her. "But we're dealing with it. It's certainly not a tragedy." M'Liss calmly explains that three days after she and Anson became Mormons, her parents and sister were killed in a late-night fire at their house near Washington, D.C. They didn't die in their sleep. Their bodies were found far from their beds. "I've experienced tragedy," M'Liss says.
LETTER TO THE PLAINTIFF
Feb. 18, 1995
I felt terrible when I missed you the last day you were in town. I wanted to give you all kinds of wonderful advice on how to do well in [national team] camp....
If you ever need to hear how good you are please call me, I am your greatest fan. I tried to call you Friday night when I got your message...I kept getting a busy signal. I will try again.
I have enclosed the competitive practice matrix from our Fall 1994 season to show you how good you are for those "bad practice" days. Look and find these names on the list—Venturini and Wilson. They are phenomenal players and both are going to [the Women's World Cup in] Sweden. Find your name—you are above them both.
On a more personal level I want you to know that I have felt so much closer to you the past several months and I treasure it. I genuinely enjoy your company even when you were about to throw up on the track on those cold mornings. I can feel a real friendship developing. As Sarah will attest, I had mixed emotions when you were picked to go into the permanent camp—proud as I could be and dismally sad that you were leaving.
I miss you still.
The TAR heels are unlike any other NCAA women's soccer team. The explanation goes beyond talent: "It's that aggressiveness," says Santa Clara coach Smith. "When you watch them play, you can see the edge they have. I'll go beyond aggressiveness: It's meanness. Anson has found a way to bring that out of his players. They don't care how many fouls they have, they don't care how they're perceived. They're going to be nasty."