[CHARLOTTE-CREIGHTON] Unseeded Charlotte's improbable bid for its first Division I championship continued as it upset Creighton, 4-1, in a shootout after their
semifinal game finished 0-0 and moved into Sunday's final at Regions Park Stadium against North Carolina (TV: ESPNU, 4 p.m. ET). After winning at UAB, the 2011 Men's College Cup host school, and
knocking off defending champion Akron, the 49ers have beaten the No. 3 seed UConn and No. 2 Bluejays in consecutive games and now get a shot at the No. 1 Tar Heels.
Featuring four All-Americans, Creighton had most of the play for much of the game and watched two shots strike the Charlotte crossbar in regulation, the first when a 49er defender hit his clearance attempt off the crossbar in the 21st minute and MAC Hermann Trophy finalist Ethan Finlay's header off the crossbar in the 61st minute.
“It was a tremendous game, and I’m so proud of my team and players,” said 49ers coach Jeremy Gunn. “It was such an unbelievable performance. We’ve been playing great soccer for a number of years. They’ve grown and matured. They’ve got a resolve and determination. We’ve scored more goals than any other team in the tournament.”
The 49ers grew stronger as the game went on, and the best Charlotte chance came in the first overtime when Donnie Smith raced in from the left side and fired a shot that goalie Brian Holt stopped at the near post.
Holt -- all 5-foot-8 of him -- set an NCAA record by posting a 0.206 goals-against average to top the former mark held by Northern Illinois' Joe Zimka (0.207).
The shutout was Creighton's 19th of the year, falling one shy of the NCAA record, while the Bluejays' 0.20 goals-against average set an NCAA record.
But Holt was overshadowed Friday night in the goalkeeping department by the Charlotte duo of Klay Davis and Gavin Dawson.
For the second game in a row, Dawson came on in the shootout for Davis -- who impressed with four saves -- and made the big save in the shootout, stopping Kris Clark’s kick.
Tyler Gibson, Isaac Caughran, Smith and Isaac Cowles all converted penalty kicks for the 49ers
“Everybody looks at the last shooter and says, ‘Wow, what a good PK,’ but Gavin, our keeper, has stepped up twice now for us in PKs and made that stop to give us the cushion,” said Cowles. “He came up to me and said, ‘No pressure, just have fun.’”
The pressure will be all on UNC in the final, only the third championship game involving in-state rivals.
Carolina and Charlotte met on Aug. 21 for a rain-shortened preseason exhibition in Charlotte, where the Tar Heels won, 2-1.
Dec. 9 in Hoover, Ala.
Charlotte 0 Creighton 0 (Charlotte wins 4-1 on penalties).
Charlotte -- Davis, Weldon, Cowles, Rodriguez, Allen, Kirkbride, James, Thomas, Darby, Gentile, Gibson. Subs: Beaulieu, Dawson, Rex, Smith, Perez, Caughran.
Creighton -- Holt, Polak, Miller, Acoff, Castro, Jordan, Duran, Peters, Ribeiro, Gomez, Finlay. Subs: Clark, Ribas, Kelly, Kallman, Brown.
Referee: Chico Orajeda.