After his team's 2000 Northeast Conference title and first-round NCAA Tournament loss, Fairleigh Dickinson men's soccer coach Seth Roland sat down with his team and laid out his objectives for the coming season.
He highlighted two possibilities: Not only could his team repeat as NEC champs, but Roland thought FDU could win a couple of games in the NCAAs.
Nearly a year later, Roland's comments seem prophetic.
The Knights (17-6) ride into Chapel Hill on Saturday on a 10-game winning streak to play seventh-seeded North Carolina in an NCAA quarterfinal at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field. The winner advances to the final four of collegiate soccer, the 2001 NCAA Men's College Cup.
"It's been very exciting," Roland said. "From other people's perspectives, it's been surprising. (I'm) pleasantly surprised, but not shocked."
Since FDU's loss to William & Mary on Oct. 13, the Knights have cruised. They topped Long Island in a four-overtime game to grab their second straight NEC crown. FDU then started its series of NCAA Tournament upsets, beating Boston College and Princeton before edging Seton Hall.
Now the team from Teaneck, N.J., is just a step away from a trip to Columbus, Ohio, site of the College Cup. But UNC, which came within a victory of the final four last year, will be FDU's toughest challenge yet.
"They are an overpowering, explosive, dangerous, extremely well-coached team," Roland said of UNC. "An elite team with a blue-collar mentality."
For the Tar Heels (18-4) to advance past the Knights and into their first final four since 1987, they must play a smart game and make the most of their scoring opportunities.