The men's soccer and volleyball teams finish their seasons with NCAA losses, leaving just the women's soccer team with the chance to bring home a fall title for the Tar Heels.
The surprising women's soccer performance aside — and it is surprising, despite the pedigree of the name on the jersey — this has been a rather poor weekend for Tar Heel teams in the postseason. The men's soccer team came into the tournament as the 9th seed in the 48-team tournament, already seen the two high seeds in their quarter of the bracket (Notre Dame as the #1 overall seed, and Saint Louis at #8) take early exits, leaving the path clear to the College Cup. Instead, hosting Indiana at home, UNC stumbled, falling 1-0 to the Hoosiers.
The winning goal, a rebounding header from Eriq Zavaleta in the sixtieth minute was only the seventh goal allowed by the Tar Heels all season. It came after UNC had held the Hoosiers to no shots on goal in the entire first half. With such impressive defensive play, it was a shame the offense couldn't recover. Despite pushing nearly the entire team forward for the last fifteen minutes, Carolina could not get one past the Indiana defense, resulting in a loss that snapped UNC's 40-game win streak at Fetzer Field. It's a rough exit from college play for the Heels' five seniors, but depending on who else leaves early for the pros, the team looks to be in a very good shape for next season.
UNC's volleyball team isn't a guaranteed postseason participant year in and year out lick their soccer brethren, but this year's team has been one of the Heels' best in recent memory. The Heels finished third in the ACC, one game behind Florida State and two behind Miami, a performance that earned them one of the conference's four tournament bids. Carolina got off to a strong start on Thursday, defeating Cal 3-1; UNC was also the cause of the Golden Bears' first round exit from the 2011 tournament. And also like last year, Carolina would not make it past the second round, losing again to the host school of the bracket. Last year it was Pepperdine, and this year it was Iowa State who sent the Heels home. Carolina was up two sets to one over the Cyclones, but had begun to falter in the third and lost the fourth decisively. They battled back but fell agonizingly short 15-13 in the final set.
The volleyball team looks to be just as strong next season, however, losing only four seniors, most notably Emily McGee, who leads the team in kills, and Cora Hams who is seventh in the ACC in assists. They will return ACC Freshman of the Year Paige Neuenfeldt, owever, along with a strong core that should have the team competing for the ACC title again next year.
With these exits and the field hockey teams' third-straight second place finish in the NCAA title game, the women's soccer team is the only fall sport still competing. They play today at 4 pm EST in San Diego against Penn State. That the team has made it this far is a testament to the grittiness of this team, as they are playing with a defense composed almost entirely of walk-ons after losing key players to injury. This team lost twice at home, exited the ACC tournament in the first round, and has taken their last three games to extra time, and yet they still find ways to win. Today's game should be incredible to watch; in the meantime, here's the video highlights Top Drawer Soccer put together of Friday's win.