Charlotte did exactly as they wanted to in the College Cup Final. They turned the match into a gritty, tough affair and took the match right at the heavily favored North Carolina Tar Heels. Charlotte won the physical battles and in all reality deserved to win the match.
Then veteran North Carolina stud Ben Speas intervened. Midway through the second half he made a weaving run from midfield running at the Charlotte defense. The defenders stepped up forcing Speas to cut left where he fired a looping shot from 25 yards out that dipped just under the crossbar for the deciding goal.
The fantastic indivual effort earned the Tar Heels (21-2-3) their first men's soccer title in 10 years. They lost in the semifinals each of the previous two seasons and fell in final in 2008. It was not to be without drama though.
Charlotte should have had a penalty kick early in the second half when Donnie Smith was clearly pulled down in the NC penalty box. The referee chose to swallow his whistle on the play.
"In my own humble opinion that was a penalty," Gunn said. "Those decisions even out through the season. But there's a good chance when we watch it on the DVD that a cup of tea might go flying across the room."
The 49ers had three other shots in the final minutes that were deflected before they reached the goal, including a key save by Jordan Gafa on a shot that Goodwin couldn't reach.
"We had them on the ropes the entire last 10 minutes," Charlotte forward T.J. Beaulieu said. "We had so many shots. One of those balls could have easily been deflected in. We were all over them, but just a bit unlucky."
Unlucky is an understatement.