Dec. 4, 2009

By Neil Amato
Special to

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- When you think North Carolina soccer, generally it's about the women's program of coach Anson Dorrance, which has won 19 NCAA titles. But the men's program is making a name for itself nationally as well.

The Tar Heels of coach Elmar Bolowich have played in the Elite Eight five times this decade, and, with Friday night's 2-1 victory over upstart Drake, North Carolina advanced to the College Cup for the third time since 2001, the year it won the NCAA championship.

Bolowich, the coach at UNC for 21 seasons, took over for Dorrance, who in the late 1980s was the coach of both programs. Bolowich has quietly put together a record of 263-140-35 and now has the Tar Heels on the brink of another title.

He attributes the Tar Heels' sustained success to consistency with the coaching staff. Assistants Carlos Somoano and Jeff Negalha have been with the program eight and five seasons, respectively.
From far and wide

A vocal portion of the announced crowd of 1,253 wore the royal blue of Drake. Several of the estimated 100 Bulldogs fans had also been at Drake's last game, the 6-4 scoring binge at Boston College. Ted Schleisman's parents had driven 17 hours from Wisconsin for that one, and they flew in for Friday's matchup. Others also had made multiple trips during the Bulldogs' NCAA run, which included an upset at No. 4 national seed Ohio State.

Former player Joel Hancock, a defender in the mid-1990s, flew in from Phoenix for Friday night's game.

"You only get so many opportunities to be in the Elite Eight," Hancock said. "I've been watching the program from afar, and I was in a position to go. I didn't want to have any regrets. ... It's an exciting time."

Hancock played for Bob Wood, who founded the program in 1986. Hancock said he was happy to see the Bulldogs break through with a deep NCAA run.

"When I played, it always seemed like we were one player short of beating Creighton," he said, alluding to the Missouri Valley Conference power. "It's an exciting time."
The devil's in the details

Drake coach Sean Holmes got a kick out of how some of the locals treated his soccer team. Not for anything the Bulldogs did out of the ordinary, but for the familiarity, or supposed familiarity, of a certain one-syllable private school that wears royal blue.

Drake made the trip from Des Moines, Iowa. Duke is from just down the road in Durham. But the school's color schemes, and even their script names, look similar.

"We were still mistaken for Duke, which did not ingratiate us to the Chapel Hill community," Holmes said.
Fall sports success

With the men's soccer team qualifying for the Final Four, North Carolina has sent three fall sports teams to that round of NCAA play. The field hockey team won the NCAA title last month, knocking off previously undefeated Maryland in the championship game. The UNC women's soccer team played Friday night in the semifinals against Notre Dame.