Less than two minutes into the second golden-goal overtime period, he made a run to the far post. Having spotted him, midfielder Jeremy Kelly played in a ball that rolled across the face of the goal and eventually found del Rosario.
But at that moment, the pressing question presented itself: to shoot or not to shoot? The angle del Rosario had to work with was less than ideal, and any sort of delay would result in a nearby Old Dominion defender closing down on him. Not to mention, squeaking it by Old Dominion goalkeeper Mertcan Akar — who notched nine saves on Tuesday — had stopped Tar Heel opportunities all evening.
Yet, the decision was instantaneous. His shot was golden.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” del Rosario said. “I mean, coming into the game we knew it was a big game; we were winless in two so we needed this win, and it just made that feeling even much better.”
On a night where nothing came easy for UNC despite — despite the team's ability to consistently create opportunities — del Rosario came on as a substitute and provided a spark.
A basic but crucial lesson for his players to understand, head coach Carlos Somoano has constantly preached the importance of being ready whenever their number is called.
Clearly, del Rosario was. With leading goalscorer Alan Winn and another starter, David October, both out with injuries, del Rosario was presented with an opportunity to make an impact. And he made the most of it.
“You know, what’s really hard for a young player – or any player to be honest, young or not, freshman or senior – is when you haven’t been playing regular minutes to be ready for the moment that you get called on,” Somoano said. “So I give him loads of credit for being ready tonight.”
That same sentiment was echoed by Wright, who believes del Rosario’s performance shows that UNC has the ability to perform at a high level, even when players like Winn and October are out.
“Lucas, tonight, was great for us,” Wright said. “So we have people who are ready to step up and perform.”
Overall, del Rosario called his first year at UNC up to this point as a “great experience,” mentioning how he’s appreciated the guidance he’s received from the team’s upperclassmen.
What’s been the message from them to del Rosario? It seems to be a variation of Somoano’s directive.
“Just staying focused in the games,” del Rosario said. “Every minute, you can’t keep your eye off the ball. You just got to keep working. Even in training, games, everything.”
Because of that focus, he now has a moment he’ll never forget. Already a decorated player — he mentioned scoring while representing the U.S. at various levels as one of his biggest achievements — del Rosario said Wednesday’s performance “is up there” with his other career highlights.
But doing anything well in a UNC uniform is fulfilling in its own right.
“I have a lot of passion for this school," he said. "So that makes it very special also."