UNC men's soccer team falls to Indiana in NCAA quarterfinals

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The Hoosiers cheer after scoring during the second half. They would go on to win the game 1-0.

In a season when ninth-seeded North Carolina men’s soccer’s defense seemed to always be in sync, the Tar Heels saw their national title defense come to an end on a single miscommunication in the back.

In the 60th minute Friday, Eriq Zavaleta received a cross in front of the goal. UNC senior goalkeeper Scott Goodwin got a hand on Zavaleta’s first offering, but the sophomore forward headed home the rebound, and No. 16 seed Indiana advanced to the College Cup with a 1-0 win.

“It looked to me like (the cross) was going over Jonathan Campbell and their guy, so I kind of started coming out thinking it was going over both of them,” Goodwin said. “I misread it.

“It was a bad decision on my part, and then he ended up getting to it.”

That loss was the Tar Heels first at home since Sept. 3, 2010, ending UNC’s bid to make its fifth straight College Cup.

Zavaleta’s goal was only the seventh UNC had allowed this season — the fewest goals allowed in Division I.

After UNC prevented Indiana from registering a single shot in the first half, the Hoosiers recollected themselves and finally penetrated the top-ranked Tar Heel defense.

“They didn’t have a whole lot of looks,” coach Carlos Somoano said. “They had about a five-minute flurry there during the second half and they took advantage of it.”

Before the deciding goal, Indiana nearly scored in the 56th minute when midfielder Nikita Kotlov sent a shot toward the far post away from Goodwin, but midfielder Mikey Lopez was there to head the ball forward.

Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said the Hoosiers were too hesitant in the first half, trying to get a rhythm before they moved toward goal, which the coaches tried to change at halftime.

“We said, ‘Let’s just go to goal a little bit more direct. Maybe we’ll lose the ball again, but we need to put pressure on that backline and create chances,’” Yeagley said.

The Tar Heels, who had only trailed opponents three times this season, had 30 minutes to find an equalizer, but the Hoosier defense held strong, keeping the ball out of the net despite seven UNC shots in the last 12 minutes.

Indiana senior goalkeeper Luis Soffner called the last 12 minutes of the game “organized chaos,” crediting his defense for blocking three shots.

“Our guys kept our shape,” Soffner said. “Everyone was talking to each other and keeping each other in line and helping each other out.

“Obviously it showed with blocked shots and people laying their bodies on the line, making sure nothing crossed that line.”

Yeagley said he told his players not to switch to a “packed, ‘let’s just hold on’ mentality,” after they took the lead.

“I thought our guys did a great job of getting numbers behind the ball, but when we did break out we tried to get in the dangerous spots to make plays,” Yeagley said.

6-foot-1 redshirt junior Josh Rice entered the game in the 76th minute, which Somoano said was an effort to give the Tar Heels a big body in the box, but Rice’s two header shots were both off target.

Freshman defender Jonathan Campbell failed to get enough power behind a header in the 78th minute and Soffner made his third and final save of the night.

Soffner’s other two saves came in the first half when the senior goalkeeper found himself in perfect position to defend two strikes from inside the 18-yard box off the foot of junior forward Rob Lovejoy.

After losing five of their top six scorers from 2011, Somoano said his young team impressed him this season.

“That’s probably what I’m most proud of,” Somoano said. “Given the circumstances of the turnover, and some of the things we had to deal with off the field, it’s pretty damn amazing what these guys were able to accomplish.”

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