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By ESPN Staff

Supreme Court won't hear Dorrance lawsuit

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition Monday to hear arguments in the sexual harassment case against the women's soccer coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, knocking down the final legal barrier to a jury trial.

Former player Melissa Jennings first sued coach Anson Dorrance in 1998, saying the decorated coach maintained a hostile environment filled with sexual harassment. The former backup goalkeeper said the abuse violated Title IX by denying her the benefits of collegiate sports.

U.S. District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley Jr. in Greensboro had dismissed Jennings' lawsuit in October 2004, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resurrected the case earlier this year, saying Jennings deserved a trial to hear the harassment claims. The Supreme Court order Monday puts the case back in Tilley's court.

"The delays are over," said Jennings' attorney, Daniel Konicek of Geneva, Ill. "Now she's prepared more than ever to see it through.''

School spokesman Mike McFarland said the decision was not unexpected, adding ``it is exceedingly rare for the nation's highest court to intervene in that way. This does not mean that the Supreme Court approves the de cision of the lower court. Rather, the next step is to proceed to trial.

"The university continues to dispute the plaintiff's version of the facts in this case."

Jennings was cut from the North Carolina team in 1998. She claims that during a one-on-one meeting to discuss her academic and athletic progress, Dorrance bluntly asked about her sex life. Attorneys say Dorrance also questioned the sex lives of other players and made remarks about players' bodies.

Dorrance denied making the remark to Jennings but acknowledged in an apology letter that he participated in sexual banter of a "jesting or teasing nature" with groups of players.

Dorrance has won 19 national championships in 27 seasons with the Tar Heels.