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The Daily Tar Heel

Seniors keep season alive with two wins

After losing five straight games to finish the regular season" the North Carolina men?s soccer team is surging in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels host Northwestern in Fetzer Field?s final game of the 2008 season.

CARY — Down 2-1 in the NCAA third round with only 3:28 left"" there was no doubt in senior captain Michael Callahan's mind what needed to be done.

""The ball comes down to you in the box and you're down a goal in the closing minutes?"" he said. ""I mean" yeah you say ‘I'm taking this on myself" no ifs ands or buts about it.""

Callahan did take it on" and he rocketed a rebound into the lower left corner of the goal from about 12 yards out to tie the score.

From there" it took only eight more minutes and a Garry Lewis header shortly into overtime to finish North Carolina's 3-2 win against a fiery University of Illinois at Chicago team and send the Tar Heels (13-7-1) into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005.

None of them could keep the grin off his face.

""We go into every overtime and every close game just with the mentality that there's just — I don't know" it's hard to explain — it's just ‘Never say die' and just totally believing that we're going to pull it out" Callahan said.

UNC's offensive seniors provided much of the pull for their comeback, and the group finished with five shots — three of them on goal — two goals and two assists.

And in the end Callahan and Lewis were the heroes, particularly after Lewis' golden goal with 6:42 remaining in the first extra period.

Freshman Kirk Urso took a corner kick cross to the far post, where freshman defender Sheanon Williams was waiting. Williams rocketed a pass back outside the box, and Shriver hit it back inside to Lewis. And for Lewis, it felt good.

Joy" he said. I was just — I mean" it was just unbelievably awesome.""

The Tar Heels had fallen behind 19 minutes in when UIC midfielder Matt Spiess headed in the rebound off a corner from the right post" but less than two minutes later Urso settled the score with his own header.

The game then was matched for the next 50 minutes before UIC striker Baggio Husidic blasted a rocket into the left corner of the goal from 25 yards off.

Lewis admitted that for a time" he thought his team might lose to the Flames (12-4-6).

""Towards the end" it might have creeped in a little bit but we had our chances he said. And if we were going to get a goal it was going to happen within the last couple minutes" because we were just going to pack guys forward.""

Then Callahan came into the picture.

""Cally came up with a huge goal that gave us life" Lewis said. That's what it's about. Not giving up" ever.""

UNC didn't give up in Tuesday's 1-0 win against Jacksonville" either after being held without a goal despite 11 shots for 55 minutes.

Fast forward to Sunday and none of it — the scoring struggles against JU the rocketing goals from UIC — was on the Tar Heels' minds.

All that was important was the dogpile with Lewis on the bottom.

After Northwestern's upset against No. 5 Akron" UNC will return to Fetzer Field on Saturday as the favored team — and the home team after Sunday's rain moved what would have been a home game to Cary's WakeMed Soccer Park.

But coach Elmar Bolowich isn't sure if a higher seed matters.

""Northwestern's a good team. There's a reason why they're in the final eight.""

But for Callahan" Shriver Lewis and the rest of the UNC senior class" playing the last home game at Fetzer is the only thing that matters.

""To have the chance to go to the Final Four"" to play on Fetzer … "" Lewis said. ""It's going to be an amazing afternoon. I can't wait.""

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