The men's soccer team's season ended abruptly Sunday, but the players left the field with their heads held high.
"From day one, I knew this group of players was capable of doing what we did and better than what we finished," said goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand '11.
No. 5 seed North Carolina ended the men's soccer team's dreams of a national championship when the Tar Heels downed the Bears, 2-0, on Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C. in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
UNC (14-2-3) took a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute. But the Tar Heels sat back and allowed the Bears (11-3-5) to make a furious second-half comeback that fell just short when Carolina scored one more goal in the last minute of the game to advance to the third round of the tournament.
The Bears handled Stony Brook in a 1-0 double-overtime thriller in the first round of the tournament at Stevenson Field on Thursday night.
The Seawolves and the Bears matched each other's intensity, and the great play from both sides sent the game into overtime. Sean Rosa '12 scored the golden goal in the 103rd minute to seal the victory for the Bears, knocking in a Jon Okafor '11 cross from the left side at the far post.
The play remained even between UNC and Brown for the first 20 minutes of the game until a Bears foul gave the Tar Heels a free kick 25 yards out that set up the eventual game-winning goal. Midfielder Kirk Urso sent a ball from 25 yards out on the left side into the box to Billy Schuler, who sent a header to the back of the net from the middle of the six-yard box. Grandstrand got caught on a 50-50 going for the ball and it deflected off his hands.
"We're usually good against set pieces," said co-captain David Walls '11, a defender. "It was disappointing to give up a goal in that fashion."
The Bears failed to get a quality look on goal in the first half but turned things around in the second in an urgent manner. They finally began a fierce comeback in the game's closing 30 minutes.
Jay Hayward '12 recorded the first shot on goal on the day for the Bears when he sent a free kick at the keeper, but Tar Heel Brooks Haggerty pursued the ball with great vision, picking up one of his two saves.
"It was different playing a team from the ACC, since it's a different type of soccer — that kind of threw us off a little, and we couldn't get into much of a rhythm," Grandstrand said.
The Tar Heels answered right back, as Alex Dixon and Schuler sent two one-on-one shots on goal at Grandstrand, but the Brown goalie kept the game within reach with two saves in five minutes.
The Bears continued their second-half offensive surge and tallied several more shots to challenge Haggerty in goal. With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Rob Medairos '12 touched the ball to Taylor Gorman '12, who narrowly missed the goal with a shot that sailed over the net.
"It was disappointing to work so hard during the season to get to the big game and not get the win," Walls said. "It was disappointing that we saved our best for last."
Dylan Remick '13 got the last best look on goal for Brown in the 88th minute when he sent a ball just high, clanking off the cross bar, that almost hooked its way into the goal for the equalizer.
Many of Carolina's offensive opportunities came off of counterattacks when the Bears were pressed forward in search of the game-tying goal. Bruno was caught in UNC territory on the Remick shot, and the Tar Heels sent the ball the other direction to Dixon, who broke away from the Brown defense. He sent a shot at Grandstrand from eight yards out and iced the game with a one-on-one goal, the final dagger that ended the Bears' 2009 season.
UNC held an 11-5 shot advantage over Brown. Haggerty saved both of the Bears' shots on goal and Grandstrand shined in net with five saves on seven shots on goal.
Brown ended the season with a very well-balanced offensive attack, as 12 players scored goals this season. The Bears outscored opponents by a two-to-one margin on the year. Nick Elenz-Martin '10, Austin Mandel '12, Thomas McNamara '13 and Rosa led the team with five goals apiece.
"Everyone gave inspiration and a commitment that definitely helped us through tricky positions and challenges we faced this season, and we usually would come out on top because of the overall team effort," Walls said.
The Bears will lose four seniors to graduation: Elenz-Martin, T.J. Thompson '10, Jarrod Schlenker '10 and co-captain Thomas Thunell '10. But the team will return the bulk of its starting line-up and look to build off a season of hard work as it heads into the offseason.
"This past offseason we had 6 a.m. workouts three days a week," Grandstrand said. "We put our minds to it and knew that we needed to work hard. That will definitely be carried on into this upcoming spring, building off of our performance from this past season."