Nov. 29, 2009

Courtesy of North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Sophomore forward Alex Dixon’s 28th-minute goal was all the offense No. 5 national seed North Carolina would need in a 1-0 win over Indiana Sunday in the third round of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship at Fetzer Field. The defense took over from their, as the backline posted its 11th shutout of the season to lift the Tar Heels (15-2-3) to the national quarterfinals for the second straight season and the fifth time this decade.

Carolina moved on to host Drake, a 6-4 winner at Boston College Sunday, at 6 p.m. Friday in Chapel Hill with a trip to the NCAA College Cup in Cary on the line.

The Tar Heels grabbed a lead they would not relinquish when midfielder Cameron Brown played a ball from midfield over the Indiana defense and to Dixon on the left. The Humble, Texas, product split two defenders, settled the ball and sent a six-yard shot under IU keeper Luis Soffner for a 1-0 Carolina lead at 27:01. Brown and Jordan Graye were credited with assists on Dixon’s goal – his second of the postseason and seventh on the year.

From there, senior goalkeeper Brooks Haggerty, who made four saves, and the UNC defense made the lead stand. The Hoosiers (11-10-2) were limited to just nine shots and two corner kicks, as Carolina recorded its third straight shutout since the close of the regular season.

“It’s important for us to get that first goal, because we know if we get the first one we can hold teams scoreless,” said Graye. We’ve done that all year with only 11 goals against. We know if we get that first one we can pretty much hold it down in the back, so it’s important for us to stay as a unit and keep the leadership going.”

Neither team appeared aggressive in the early minutes until the Hoosiers nearly found the back of the net on a header by Lee Hagedorn that Haggerty saved in the 26th minute. The Tar Heels quickly answered with Dixon’s game-winning score in the 28th minute, and UNC nearly doubled its lead a minute later when Zach Loyd headed a Kirk Urso corner kick on frame but Indiana’s Darren Yeagle saved the ball off the line to keep the deficit at a single goal.

Just before intermission, IU misfired on a quality chance in the 43rd minute when Yeagle sent an open header wide of the net.

“This was not our most beautiful performance for sure,” said UNC head coach Elmar Bolowich, who has led UNC to five quarterfinal appearances. “In order to advance, we have to do better. We have to do better on Friday. I thought we struggled today with finding our rhythm early. Several players were a little bit off here and there. We couldn’t quite connected, and as result, for my liking, Indiana had too much of the play. They are a good side. I don’t want to take anything away from them. They are a competitive team and know how to play these games.”

Neither team managed much in the way of quality chances in the second half, but sophomore forward Billy Schuler nearly doubled the Tar Heels’ lead on two occasions. He saw a 73rd-minute shot poked over the crossbar by Soffner, and the IU defense stepped up to block his shot attempt in the 82nd.

Haggerty turned away Indiana’s best scoring chance in the 80th minute when Andy Adlard turned and fired from 10 yards, but the UNC keeper saved the one-on-one chance to preserve victory, his ninth shutout of the season and his fifth clean sheet in seven career NCAA Tournament starts.

Carolina finished with a 15-9 edge in shots and a 13-2 margin on corner kicks.

“We knew coming down here was going to be a tough task – them being at home, being a team that has had a very good season and being a team that doesn’t find ways to lose,” said Indiana head coach Mike Freitag. “They keep it solid and they don’t give things away, so again congrats to the Tar Heels. But I’d also like to congratulate my team on a season where I really challenged them with our schedule, and we found away to get it going at the end of the season and make to the Sweet 16. So I’m awfully proud of those guys too.”