“Sure enough, the ball fell in and once that happened we just had all the momentum go our way.”
As Gafa dribbled the ball forward in overtime, he said all he saw in front of him was space and time to line up for a shot.
“Once I hit it, I just knew it was going in,” Gafa said. “There wasn’t really a run going in, so I just took a touch inside and went for it.
“Coach talks about going for it and taking risks. Sometimes you have to lean out there and take a risk, and sure enough it went in.”
Brown said he used that same advice from coach Carlos Somoano when he decided to take a seemingly harmless shot at the goal in the 87th minute.
His hard, low shot from more than 20 yards out made it through Duke’s defense, and the ball skipped to Duke goalie James Belshaw, but he couldn’t corral it, allowing the ball to trickle slowly into the net.
“If anything I was just hoping for a deflection or some kind of rebound and somebody would follow it up,” Brown said. “James Belshaw is an unbelievable goalie, so I think on a different night he saves that.”
The Tar Heels went down 1-0 in the 59th minute after Duke midfielder Riley Wolfe took advantage of a miscommunication by UNC’s backline.
Freshman defender Jonathan Campbell misplayed a header on a long clearance from Duke, and Wolfe launched a shot into the upper right corner of the net.
“Jonathan and O.C. kind of got mixed up together,” Somoano said. “Jonathan can just let it run to (goalie Scott Goodwin), and he kind of lost his footing there on his back pedal and got a very unclean header that dropped loose to one of their guys.”
But Brown said the deficit, which was only the second the Tar Heels had faced all season, didn’t rattle their confidence.
“Nobody had a doubt in their mind that we were going to lose at any time this game,” Brown said. “The belief – in everybody on the field and off the field- the belief that we were going to win is really what got us through tonight.”
The Blue Devils played an aggressive Duke team that racked up to 17 fouls and four crucial yellow cards.
Somoano said that the emotion involved in the rivalry game likely led Duke’s fouling miscues.
UNC benefited from a huge psychological advantage with several hundred Tar Heel fans braving a rainy Friday night to support the Tar Heels and negate Duke’s home-field advantage.
“I don’t have words to possibly describe how thankful I am for them to come out here and push us and support us,” Somoano said. “I wish I could come up with something worthwhile but all I can say is it was very special to us.
“It makes the win here so meaningful to us. It just makes you proud to be a Tar Heel.”