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The Daily Tar Heel

Senior Garry Lewis couldn't keep the grin off his face.

He and the North Carolina men's soccer team had just won their Round of 16 matchup in overtime. And he had scored the winning goal.

""Joy. I was just — I mean" it was just overwhelmingly awesome he said after the game. I mean that's what it's about. Not giving up" ever.""

That's a lesson this Tar Heel team has learned well.

Last season" UNC missed the cut for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years.

But even after a season-ending double overtime loss in the ACC Tournament" coach Elmar Bolowich knew this season would be different.

""If everything goes right" we will be a very very different team" he said in November 2007. Things look good. I'm very optimistic. I'm very enthusiastic.""

Turns out" Bolowich had a right to be excited. The team has gone 13-7-1 this season with six of the seven losses coming against ACC teams.

Now they're playing at home in the Elite Eight round fighting for a chance to head to Frisco Texas" for the College Cup for the first time since 2001.

""Any game in the NCAA Tournament" especially the Elite Eight is exciting especially at home senior Ryan Adeleye said Tuesday. It means a lot in front of our home crowd lot of fans" family even — it's very exciting for everybody.""

But the Tar Heels' two wins in the second and third rounds (they were granted a first-round bye as the No. 13 seed) at times looked in doubt.

North Carolina floundered into the postseason with five straight losses" the longest such streak in program history. Three of the five were against the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country in Wake Forest and Maryland" but the losses were still in black and white.

""The bad streak was just that the results didn't come. But actually we didn't play so poorly"" Bolowich said Tuesday.

We were just not fortunate enough to get the results or score one more goal than the opponents did.""

That all changed in the Round of 16" when UNC rebounded from two one-goal deficits against the University of Illinois at Chicago to take the game 3-2" in overtime.

""For certain players it might have reignited this flame in them that we saw earlier in the season"" Adeleye said.

That's a needed spark for the Tar Heels, who need to return to their success of the early season against a Northwestern team that already has managed three upsets in this year's tournament.

Coach Bolowich thinks the guys can handle it.

We just have to be upbeat about ourselves" he said. You know" we got ourselves into a little bit of a rut of not having the results we wanted late in the season.

""Then we corrected a few things" the guys are positive" and we are looking forward to playing this game again on Saturday.""

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