Men’s soccer falls short to No. 13 North Carolina, 1-0
The No. 13 North Carolina used a second half goal to knock off the JU men’s soccer team, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday night at Fetzer Field.

The Tar Heels (11-8-1) got the game-winning goal from freshman forward Billy Schuler to snap a season-long, five-game losing streak and earn a Sweet 16 game against Illinois-Chicago this weekend.

The Dolphins (12-9-1) had several scoring opportunities throughout the match as three of their five first half shots fell away from the goal and the game-tying score was missed in the final seconds less than three yards from the net.

Senior goalie Joey Sanchez tied his career-high with nine saves to lead the Dolphins between the posts, while sophomore forward Tony Taylor had four shots to pace the offense.

“I’m very proud of our kids for what they had accomplished this year,” said JU head coach Mike Johnson. “We had a great run and showed that we can play with anybody in the country.

“Tonight’s result was a little unjust because I thought we had great opportunities in the first half to put ourselves in position to win the game, but we went down a goal. Just like the last couple games, our kids never quit and they believed we could win the game. We had chances in the last five minutes to equalize and maybe win the game again.

“Overall, this is a big stepping stone for our program and our kids. We will be dedicated and focused in the offseason to try to win the (A-Sun) championship again for another shot in the NCAA Tournament.”

The Tar Heels outshot the Dolphins, 10-5, in the first half, but JU had three open looks to get on the scoreboard.

Less than 10 minutes into the game, sophomore Taylor launched a wide-out shot from 30-yards out that was online, but it hit the cross bar and bounced off.

Sophomore Nedim Hrustic and junior Jonathon Jackson each had a shot that was knocked down by junior goalie Brooks Haggerty to keep a scoreless game heading into half time.

After the half, Schuler scored from six yards out less than 11 minutes into the second half on a pass by Cameron Brown to give UNC a 1-0 advantage.

Sanchez had five saves in the second half, which included three 1-v-1 stops in the final 10 minutes of the game to keep the Dolphins close.

With less than five seconds left in the match, junior defender Oliver Klingenstein got an open shot off free bouncing ball between the masses, but missed the shot and the Tar Heels cleared the ball to quash any comeback.

Despite the loss, the Dolphins finished with one of their most successful seasons in school history.

The Dolphins finished with the highest win total in school history (12-9-1), which included rallies in matches over Lipscomb and Campbell to win the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship. JU also rallied to down Louisville in overtime to earn the school’s first NCAA Tournament win.

The Dolphins had a program-best seven players on the A-Sun all-conference teams, including a conference-record five players on the second team.

Senior midfielder Ramak Niakan Safi scored a total of eight goals in the last seven wins en route to a career-best 10 goals and 22 points. Along the way, he earned A-Sun Tournament MVP, all-tournament team, first team all-conference and College Soccer News “National Team of the Week” accolades.

Sanchez paced the Dolphins defense with a career-best 68 saves and six shutouts in 17 matches in goal.