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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels' run ends in _¶ nals

Brian Shriver (second from left) celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning goal against No. 1 Wake Forest in the College Cup semifinals.

DEC. 14 FRISCO Texas — The North Carolina men's soccer team shouldn't even have been playing in the NCAA championship game.

That would mean the Tar Heels had beaten Wake Forest the first win against the Deacons in six tries. That would mean the No. 13 seed had upset the No. 1 seed — a team with only one overtime loss on the season. That would mean last year's national champion hadn't made it past the semis.

But there they were the Tar Heels" lining up Sunday with everything to play for.

""It was an amazing feeling" senior captain Michael Callahan said of making it to the College Cup in Frisco. I just couldn't be happier to in my senior year" get this opportunity to compete for a national title.""

And although the Tar Heels' magic stopped in the finals with a 1-0 loss to Maryland" it was still a run to remember. But even for Callahan" that didn't make a hard-fought loss in the finals any easier.

""I don't know. It's tough to find positives out of a time like this"" he said after the finals. And I'm disappointed in myself.""

Though Callahan's play was one of the stronger facets for the Tar Heels on Sunday" that didn't change the outcome. Maryland midfielder Graham Zusi's goal in the 67th minute gave the Terrapins their second title in four years and ended North Carolina's surprising run to the championship game.

After an evenly matched first half the Terrapins came out gunning in the second with Zusi's goal coming on a second-chance try with 23 minutes remaining. Maryland's Jeremy Hall rocketed a shot toward the goal which was blocked by North Carolina defender Eddie Ababio. The rebound fell straight to Zusi's feet.

As UNC keeper Brooks Haggerty stretched to stop Zusi's shot" the ball slammed into the lower left corner of the net.

""That was a hard game for us" and I felt like we had a hard time getting into the rhythm especially in the first half coach Elmar Bolowich said. In the second half with the wind in the back I thought we might do a little bit more" but Maryland's defense held strong.""

The postgame tone was in obvious contrast to the jubilant manner in which Friday's game had concluded — and in which it started.

Only 3:56 into the match" Brian Shriver caught a cross from midfielder Zach Loyd on the left side of the box and headed the ball in from 6 yards out. Wake Forest keeper Akira Fitzgerald got a hand on the ball but couldn't stop it from bouncing into the side of the net.

That was all the scoring UNC would need and this time there would be no repeat performance of the teams' October meeting when WFU scored three goals in six minutes and beat the Tar Heels 4-2.

In large part" the deficit remained this time because Haggerty was constantly on the move.

""In the end" obviously I was the most nervous he said. But when I made the save on Marcus (Tracy's shot in the second half) when I dove it was to my left side and I tipped it over the goal" I just knew our team was going to get it done.""

And so a team that didn't make the tournament in 2007 could claim second-best in the nation in 2008.

Since then" three rookies were named to Soccer America's Freshman Team of the Year and Callahan was named second-team All-America and earned a spot on the NSCAA Scholar All-America team.

After individual honors and only the second finals appearance in school history" UNC's season was still one to be proud of.

""I want to congratulate Maryland" Bolowich said. And I want to congratulate our team for putting out an outstanding effort. I think we left everything on the field" and I cannot ask for anything more.""

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