Nov. 25, 2008

Courtesy of North Carolina Athletics

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - A 56th minute goal from freshman forward Billy Schuler was all the offense No. 13 seed North Carolina would need in a 1-0 victory over Jacksonville Tuesday in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship at Fetzer Field. Schuler's strike snaps a five-game losing skid for the Tar Heels and sends the program into the NCAA round of 16 for the first time since 2005.

Carolina (12-7-1) will host Illinois-Chicago (12-3-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday in a third-round match, and tickets will be available for purchase at The Flames advanced earlier Tuesday by outdistancing No. 4 seed Michigan State in penalty kicks, 3-2.

"It was what I expected. They were a very nice team, well organized and made life difficult for us in the first half," said 20th-year head coach Elmar Bolowich, who improved to 14-11-0 in the postseason. "They have some very good players. We needed to watch out for their strong offense. They have scored eight goals in the last two games, all away. To have a shutout against them was big for us, and everyone played their part defensively.

"We just needed to find a way to survive this game and move on, and the guys did. I give them a whole lot of credit. We kept our course and kept pressing away. In the second half we finally got rewarded with a goal from Billy (Schuler) and an assist from Cameron (Brown)."

After holding possession for much of the first half and the early part of the second, the Tar Heels found the back of the net at 55:17 courtesy of Schuler off a through ball from midfielder Cameron Brown. After dribbling through the JU defense, Brown sent the ball to Schuler on the left side, and he finished from the six for his fourth goal of the season and first since Oct. 25 at Clemson.

"Cameron got the ball in the middle of the field with some open space," said Schuler, who leads all UNC rookies with 12 points. "He kind of dribbled forward drawing a defender. I was on the left side, he played me through and I was on side so I took my touch. The goalie came out a little bit and I was happy to put it past him."

After grabbing the lead, the Tar Heels were unsuccessful in putting the match away, thanks in large part to the play of JU goalkeeper Joey Sanchez, who finished with nine saves on the night. After stopping a blast from the 18 by Brown in the 69th minute, Sanchez thwarted back-to-back one-on-one chances, stopping Schuler in the 84th minute and Alex Dixon in the 86th.

Carolina keeper Brooks Haggerty came up big in the final minute, saving a blast by JU's Tony Taylor and helping to clear a ball off the line as time expired. He made three saves on the night to record his first shutout of the year and the Tar Heels' fifth.

UNC came out aggressive in the opening period, outshooting Jacksonville, 10-5, but dodged a pair of quality chances by the Dolphins (12-9-1) in the first 18 minutes. Taylor sent a strike off the cross bar in the 11th minute, and Nedim Hrustic followed in the 17th with a point-blank header stopped by Haggerty.

"First of all, I want to compliment North Carolina on a great game," said Jacksonville head coach Mike Johnson. "The environment was great here. The history of the school, with both the women's and men's programs, makes for an exciting event anytime you get to play a team that has won a national championship. Our kids obviously believed we could win the game. Unfortunately, in soccer one goal decides a game, and tonight North Carolina was able to find their goal."

The Tar Heels finished with 18 shots, their most since posting a season-best 29 against East Tennessee State Sept. 27. JU tallied 12 and logged an 8-2 edge in corner kicks.

"Illinois-Chicago is a strong team, so it will be a test for us," said Bolowich. "They must have done something right to upset the No. 4 seed and advance. We just got to play with a different mentality, not like in the first half tonight. We have to take the initiative on our home field, and since we do have home field advantage, let's go do it."