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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels Aim for Conference Title

A much different team from last year, men's soccer looks to capture the ACC title for the second straight year.

Despite the similarities between last season and this one, the past cannot bring the North Carolina men's soccer team a repeat journey to the ACC Tournament finals.

It cannot guarantee the No. 7 Tar Heels a dramatic, title-clinching overtime goal like the one they scored in 2000.

No, this year's UNC team has to carve its own niche and build its own history.

The first pages of North Carolina's 2001 postseason will be drafted tonight when second-seeded UNC (15-3, 4-2 in the ACC) takes on seventh-seeded N.C. State (4-14, 0-6) in an ACC Tournament first-round game at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson, S.C., at 5:30 p.m. The winner faces the victor of the Maryland-Clemson matchup Friday at 8 p.m.

"I don't think it's different," said sophomore midfielder Logan Pause, comparing his team's preparation for the postseason. "If you lose, you're done from here on out."

And though the stakes are the same and the circumstances are similar, the comparison between this year's UNC team and the previous edition of the Tar Heels is strained, at best.

A year ago, the Tar Heels entered the tournament as the top-seeded team on an 11-game winning streak. They were ranked No. 1 in some polls and had the nation's leading scorer, Chris Carrieri, leading the offensive charge.

This year, North Carolina's leading scorer is freshman Marcus Storey and defense is the team's focus.

"It just seems like it's different from last year when we had Carrieri scoring and had that offensive firepower," said senior back Chris Leitch.

Instead of blowing out their opponents, the Tar Heels have shut them out.

UNC has posted 10 shutouts, including seven in its last eight games. But it was the game in which North Carolina allowed a goal -- a 4-2 loss to Wake Forest on Oct. 27 -- that served as a wake-up call for the Tar Heels.

"After the game was like a gut check," Leitch said. "It made us realize we're not where we want to be. We still need to do some work."

Following the loss in Winston-Salem, the Tar Heels had to finish the season with two games against opponents ranked in the top 20. UNC beat Clemson and South Carolina with back-to-back 1-0 decisions to put themselves in position to be the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney.

Five Earn Postseason Honors

UNC senior defender Danny Jackson was named first-team All-ACC for the second year in a row, and Storey was tabbed as the the conference's Rookie of the Year on Tuesday.

Leitch, Pause and forward Ryan Kneipper were all named second-team All-ACC performers.

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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