HOOVER, ALA. — In one of the most unique situations in college soccer, Ben Speas tallied the game-winning goal to win his second consecutive NCAA College Cup.
But this time, it was for the North Carolina Tar Heels, not the reigning-Akron Zips.
After almost 65 minutes of play, UNC and UNC Charlotte remained deadlocked in a scoreless battle. But then the junior transfer stepped in and did individually what his team hadn’t been able to accomplish all night.
He dribbled the ball through the 49ers’ esteemed play-creating defense and launched an unassisted rocket off his left cleat. The ball dipped over the head of UNC Charlotte keeper Klay Davis and collected in the back of the net, notching his second game-winner of the season.
Twenty-five minutes later, the top-seeded Tar Heels secured their – and Speas’ – second national championship by a score of 1-0.
“Both (championships) were very different,” Speas said. “And both have a place in my heart. But this one was very special to me…I’m so proud of this team.”
Speas connected with UNC head coach Carlos Somoano after winning the College Cup last year, and decided to ink his transfer to North Carolina within the week. And tonight, the Tar Heels needed him when they couldn’t rely on their typical pass-and-attack style to get the victory.
“We wanted to play our style game and have a little more possession, but we didn’t have the legs to do it today,” Somoano said. “So we decided to find another way to win the game, and Ben had a moment of inspiration and it was incredible.”
Though UNC Charlotte threatened to equalize in the dwindling minutes of the second half, North Carolina was able to remain strong and assure that the College Cup title would return to Chapel Hill for the first time since 2001.
Senior captain Kirk Urso was finally able to touch the hardware that had evaded him for three consecutive years. And for the upcoming-December graduate, the experience was bittersweet.
“My whole college career at UNC has been awesome,” Urso said. “But there’s something special about this year. It was a family…I think to cap (the year) off with this is something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. And even if we hadn’t, our group understood that we built something special off the field. These guys are like my brothers…If they need me I’m going to be there for them. That bond is something special. And winning it makes it even better.”
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