HOOVER, Ala. – Ben Speas lofted a 25-yard shot over goalkeeper Klay Davis midway through the second half to give North Carolina a 1-0 victory against Charlotte in the NCAA Championship.
The Tar Heels (22-2-2) earned their first men’s soccer title in 10 years. They lost in the semifinals each of the previous two seasons and fell in final in 2008.
Speas, who had an assist in North Carolina’s semifinal victory against UCLA, worked the ball toward the middle of the field just outside the Charlotte box and hit a left-footer that barely cleared the outstretched arm of Davis.
“I went to my right and was going to take a shot, but I got cut off so I went back to my left and hit it with my left foot,” Speas said. “It dipped over the keeper and luckily went in.”
The unseeded 49ers (17-5-3) outshot North Carolina 14-3 in the second half, including a flurry of four shots in 41 seconds with less than five minutes left in regulation.
“The simple fact is they scored a fantastic goal and we did everything but,” Charlotte coach Jeremy Gunn said. “It was incredible what we were doing the last five minutes. There were so many great attempts. We gave them everything that we had. It just wasn’t quite meant to be.” “
UNC goalkeeper Scott Goodwin made two saves during the late flurry, one shot hit the crossbar and another went just wide of the net.
“It was hectic, to say the least,” Goodwin said. “Charlotte did an amazing job toward the end of the game putting us under pressure.”
The 49ers had three other shots in the final minutes that were deflected before they reached the goal, including a key save by Jordan Gafa on a shot that Goodwin couldn’t reach.
“We had them on the ropes the entire last 10 minutes,” Charlotte forward T.J. Beaulieu said. “We had so many shots. One of those balls could have easily been deflected in. We were all over them, but just a bit unlucky.”
It appeared that the 49ers might receive a penalty kick early in the second half when Donnie Smith went to the ground while trying to drive toward the goal against Kirk Urso, but no foul was called.
“In my own humble opinion that was a penalty,” Gunn said. “Those decisions even out through the season. But there’s a good chance when we watch it on the DVD that a cup of tea might go flying across the room.”
When Urso was asked about the play he initially said: “You mean the one that maybe could have been a PK?”
“I think the ref made the right decision,” Urso said later. “I was just running alongside of [Smith] and I thought I was in good position. I don’t think I got him at all.”
The victory helped erase years of frustration for Urso and the other UNC seniors.
“My whole college career has been awesome, but there was something extra about this team,” Urso said. “To cap it off with this is something I’m going to remember the rest of my life.”