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The Daily Tar Heel

Men's Soccer Advances to Semifinals

And even despite these premonitions, the Tar Heels nearly did lose Saturday afternoon at Fetzer Field. But in a game filled with a slew of odd twists and turns, North Carolina survived yet again and will next play in the 2001 Men's College Cup, the final four of collegiate soccer.

Noz Yamauchi's free kick in the 126th minute -- that's right, in the third overtime period -- deflected off FDU defender Brian Romero's head and past Knight goalkeeper Vytautas Lenkutis to give UNC a 3-2 win and a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for next weekend's College Cup. The seventh-seeded Tar Heels (19-4) will face third-seeded Stanford, a 1-0 winner against St. Louis on Friday night.

"It was a strange game to win 3-2 when you analyze the game," said UNC defender Danny Jackson. "It's just relief -- pure relief. We had everything on the line, and I had a great feeling we were going to win it. I just didn't know how we were going to do it."

After dropping behind 1-0 on an early counterattack goal by the Knights' third-team All-American forward, Aaron Paye, North Carolina roared back in the second half. Playing without injured defensive midfielder Grant Porter, who sat out with a pulled groin, the Tar Heels had to adjust to a slightly different lineup that featured Logan Pause in Porter's spot and Matt Crawford in Pause's attacking midfielder position.

At the beginning of the second half, though, UNC coach Elmar Bolowich began subbing in many of his bench players. He shunned his usual reluctance to move players in and out of the games and instead searched for an offensive spark.

"I feel like we needed to serve more to the far post, and I told Ryan (Kneipper) and all our forwards that we needed to make runs to the far post," Bolowich said. "And then we got the two goals, off of service, off of headers with Ryan.

"I was very uptight, because I didn't feel like I should be the one making the mistake with a substitution or something. So, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, actually, to do the right thing."

And soon, the changes paid off. Kneipper headed two separate crosses by Lenkutis in a five-minute stretch to put North Carolina in position to reach its first final four since 1987.

The first, and game-tying, goal came on the Tar Heels' 20th shot of the match. In the 73rd minute, freshman midfielder Raymond Fumo sent an arcing service from near the left sideline, 40 yards from the FDU goal.

Kneipper out-jumped the Knights' defense in the penalty box to head the ball past an outstretched Lenkutis and just inside the far post.

From there, the game's momentum shifted back to an attacking North Carolina team that had controlled the ball and dictated play against a soft-defending, opportunistic FDU squad.

Four and a half minutes later, the Tar Heels scored what looked to be the game-winner on yet another Kneipper header. Forward Mike Gell crossed a lob for Kneipper, who quickly redirected the ball to the top left corner of the goal for a 2-1 lead.

Considering that the Knights (17-7) had been content to play in their defensive third after posting the early goal, it seemed like FDU would have trouble reasserting its offense with only 10 minutes to play.

But securing the trip to Columbus would prove much more difficult than a couple of Kneipper flicks at the goal for UNC.

Paye, the Knights' leading scorer and only attacker in their 1-5-4 system, forged into the Tar Heels? defensive third with less than a minute left in the game. Surrounded by UNC defenders Jackson, Chris Leitch and David Stokes, Paye got inside the 18-yard box before losing the ball to Jackson.

Stokes, however, slipped on the soft Fetzer turf and fell, his hand landed directly on top of the ball. Referee Mike Balson signaled the hand ball, and the ensuing penalty kick, with 31 seconds left in the match. Suddenly, FDU had a chance at survival.

"I should have instructed the team, a little bit more, to press higher to avoid them coming down on us with another opportunity in the box," Bolowich said. "I felt too comfortable, I was probably too relaxed in the last 30 seconds to say something about it, and as a result, we got penalized for it."

Dirceu Hurtado blasted the penalty kick to the upper left corner, and UNC keeper Michael Ueltschey had no chance. The score was 2-2, and overtime was a certainty.

The Tar Heels had several chances in the first two overtime periods to finish off the Knights and outshot their opponents 14-1 in the three OTs. For the game, UNC held a 37-shot advantage and fired 43 attempts on goal.

In a game that seemed destined for penalty kicks, which would have begun at the conclusion of four 15-minute overtime periods, North Carolina advanced on a fluke. Yamauchi's left-footed, bending free kick from 30 yards out grazed off Romero?s head and buzzed by a stunned Lenkutis.

Within seconds, the game, and Farleigh Dickinson's College Cup hopes, ended.

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"We feel unlucky," said FDU coach Seth Roland. "There's no other way to put it."

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