Dec 09, 2011; Hoover, AL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels midfielder Enzo Martinez (middle) celebrates with teammates after defeating the UCLA Bruins in penalty kicks in the semi finals of the NCAA Men

UNC Soccer: A look back to 2011

The 2012 season was a successful one for the Carolina Soccer program, but it’s hard to see the light in comparison to last year’s haul. A share of the league title is more than most teams, even the Tar Heels, can usually ask for, but last year’s group pulled out a fabled treble of titles. We can’t allow ourselves to forget the 2012 squad’s accomplishments, but there’s nothing wrong with a little look back to a moment of glory, even if that moment was only last year.

Considering the star studded nature of the 2011 team, the fact that the 2012 squad was a national contender is a real coup for the program. Losing Ben Speas, Billy Schuler, Matt Hedges, Kirk Urso, and Enzo Martinez should have crippled us this year, but the Heels filled the squad sheet back out and made another run at the title, only dropping the ACC title to bogey team Maryland and being eliminated narrowly from the NCAAs by the eventual champions.

Let’s just harken back to that: we had all of thatMLScaliber starpower in the team at once, not to mention Lovejoy tearing up the opposition, super-frosh Mikey Lopez in the middle and Gafa, Goodwin, McCrary and Okwuonu shoring up the defense. That’s a special squad. This year’s Heels showed that even half that squad (3 defenders, 1 midfielder, a keeper, and a forward) is a powerhouse, with the addition of some sublime freshmen (Danny Garcia and Jonathan Campbell I’m looking at you).

Those are the kinds of groups we talk about for a long time, even when they don’t win. It’s been a year and I’m still giddy, and even more excited for the future.

And at times it looked like they might not win, like some malevolent miracle might wrest the title from Captain Kirk Urso’s loving arms. The last few Tar Heel incarnations have shown a certain talent for shredding fans’ nerves. The 2011 champs had the wherewithal (or the sheer quality) to pull out wins win they needed them.  A number of overtime and double OT win’s, and a few “non-wins” coupled with a national semifinal PK Shootout win against UCLA kept the tension high all year, but in the end there was no doubt that the Heels were the premier team in the land.

Dropping the first ACC game in a 2OT heartbreaker to VT wasn’t to stop the Heels from winning the ACC Regular season, and having to go to overtime to make the ACC final couldn’t deter the Heels from giving it to Boston College and nabbing a second title for the year. Even the mighty UCLA holding a goal advantage in the 85th couldn’t stop the Heels, as Enzo’s ridiculous drive was only parried to Billy Schuler who set up the PK Shootout with his equalizer. And let’s not get started on shootouts. Scott Goodwin was and is a penalty wizard. Even on the biggest stage he stepped up to the proverbial plate and hit a homer.

So let’s bask in that lovely memory. We had all that, plus the national title to boot. Then let’s think about the future. The Tar Heels will be right back in it next season, with Danny Garcia and Rob Lovejoy leading the line and the best defense in the college game backing them up. Just as we have seen greatness in Chapel Hill in the recent past, so shall we see it again in the near future.

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