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By Rob Daniels for theACC.com
CARY, N.C. – On a night such as Friday, even the winners were going to be numb. Billy Schuler at least made sure his North Carolina Tar Heels were in that victorious category.
With wind chills into the 30s and falling, the top-seeded Tar Heels defeated Virginia 1-0 in the ACC Tournament semifinals when Schuler finished a well executed sequence initiated by Enzo Martinez and continued by Rob Lovejoy less than two minutes into overtime. UNC (16-2-2) had reason to believe it wouldn’t come to this, having controlled play for almost all of regulation. By itself, of course, outshooting the opposition 21-4 doesn’t promise anything in this game, and getting frustrated doesn’t particularly help.
“You can’t dwell on your misses,” Lovejoy said. “You have to think you’re going to get the next one and put it away.”
And so they did when Martinez played a ball that skipped off Cavalier defender Hunter Jumper and over to Lovejoy near the right edge of the box.
“(Jumper) played an extraordinary game all night long,” Lovejoy said. “But on that one play, I get a lucky. The ball gets through. And then I don’t have to look. I know Billy’s going to be there.”
Lovejoy, with a two-step advantage in open space, rolled one perfectly along the grass for Schuler, who one-timed it home past diving goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita. The key in such a circumstance is a pass that will hug the ground; a bouncing ball can become soccer’s visual version of football’s field-goal attempt.
“He put me on a platter,” Schuler said. “Set me up perfectly.”
North Carolina advanced to the championship game for the second year in a row and will seek its first title since 2000 when it faces the winner of Friday’s late game between Boston College and Duke.
The fourth-seeded Cavs (12-7-1) got to WakeMed Stadium with a 4-3 overtime win over No. 5 Wake Forest on Tuesday. The game was the tournament’s highest scoring quarterfinal since 1997, and coach George Gelnovatch said it had a cumulative effect that was tough to counteract against a powerful UNC club.
“Congratulations to Carolina, a good team that played hard and well tonight,” Gelnovatch said. “I thought our last game against Wake – not just the overtime – was a pretty emotional game for us. It took a lot out of us. And it showed.”
The Cavs will take the next few days off and begin preparations for a probable NCAA tournament bid. The Heels will continue without much interruption, a fact they don’t mind. Very little – including the cold – can really pester UNC coach Carlos Somoano, who insisted he wasn’t agitated about having to play overtime after getting nothing on the scoreboard out of regulation.
“I don’t have any issue with that,” he said. “It’s soccer. It’s hard to score.”