[NORTH CAROLINA-CHARLOTTE] Underdog Charlotte had most of the play and almost all the chances, but top-seed North Carolina got a spectacular goal from Ben Speas to win its second national title with a 1-0 victory in Sunday's Men's College Cup final in Hoover, Ala.
Speas broke a scoreless deadlock in the 65th minute when he weaved in and out the Charlotte defense, beating three defenders before hitting a looping shot that beat 49er keeper Klay Davis.
The title was also the second for Speas, who was the 12th man when Akron won the 2010 championship.
“Both were very different," the junior said of his two titles. "Both have a place in my heart, but this one was very special to me. Coming in here, meshing with the guys from Day 1. They welcomed me as if I had been there for two years straight."
Charlotte had sat back for much of its semifinal game against Creighton but went right on the attack in the final against the Tar Heels, who were playing in their fourth final but whose semifinal against UCLA won in a shootout looked to have taken a lot out of them.
“I think today, we relied on our heart and our guts to win this game," said North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano. "Friday night I think was a game that extended us beyond what I could have possibly expected. The standard and pace of that game took so much out of us. I think today coming back playing the game that we wanted to, it just didn’t happen, Charlotte came out so aggressive and they played so hard and we didn't have the legs to play the game that we wanted to.”
The first half featured few good chances, but the 49ers had all kinds of opportunities late in the game, finishing the second half with a 14-3 edge in shots.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more in the game,” Charlotte coach Jeremy Gunn said. “We kept an incredible attacking team quiet. We kept getting great chances. The simple fact in the game is they scored a fantastic goal to win the game and we did everything but."
Earlier in the second half, the 49ers looked to earn a penalty when the ever-dangerous Donnie Smith went down the area on a challenge from Kirk Urso, but no foul was called by referee Michael Kennedy.
"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."
Carolina defender Jordan Gafa saved Thomas Allen's shot off the line with a diving header in the 82nd minute.
With three minutes to play, the real action began as the 49ers fired off five shots in a span of 40 seconds.
Freshman star Giuseppe Gentile had a shot saved by the UNC keeper Scott Goodwin, and then T.J. Beaulieu’s shot struck the bottom of the crossbar and nearly cleared the goal line.
“We had them on the ropes the entire last 10 minutes,” Beaulieu said. “We had a lot of good chances.”
Somoano became just the second coach in NCAA history to claim a national title in his first year. Mike Freitag won the 2004 title with Indiana.
"The two games that we played this weekend were unbelievable," said Somoano, who replaced Elmar Bolowich, who moved to Creighton, which lost to Charlotte in the semifinals in a shootout. "Charlotte, of course, was exceptional tonight. For us to be able to play two teams of the caliber of UCLA and UNC Charlotte was such completely different styles and held to respond to both different circumstances and still find ways to get the results. I can’t say enough about our group."
Dec. 11 Hoover, Ala.
North Carolina 1 Charlotte 0 Goal: Speas 7 (unassisted) 65.
North Carolina -- Goodwin, McKinney, Hedges, Okwuonu, J.McCrary, Urso, Martinez, Schuler, Lopez, Speas, Lovejoy. Subs: Rice, Gafa, C.McCrary, Diehl.
Charlotte -- Davis, Cowles, Rodriguez, Allen, Perez, Kirkbride, James, Thomas, Darby, Gentile, Gibson. Subs: Beaulieu, Rex, Smith, Caughran.
Referee: Michael Kennedy.