— UMBC had to believe it had the defending NCAA champions right where they wanted them.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Retrievers and North Carolina were headed to penalty kicks to decide who would advance from their second-round match in the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship on Sunday at Fetzer Field.
After all, UMBC (11-4-7) had prevailed over New Hampshire in the America East tournament final and Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAAs on penalty kicks.
"Definitely," team captain and senior forward Milo Kapor said. "With the last two results and winning them, we definitely felt confident."
It didn't work out that way. Kapor missed UMBC's first penalty kick of the shootout, and UNC goalkeeper Scott Goodwin would save three of the five he faced in all as the second-seeded Tar Heels advanced by a 3-2 count and ran their unbeaten streak at home to 39 matches, tied for the second-longest run in NCAA history.
"I don't know what to say," Kapor said. "Penalty kicks are always 50-50. I don't know the last time I missed a penalty shot, to be honest. It's tough on me to finish my career that way."
Although Mamadou Kansaye and Liam Paddock made their kicks, Goodwin blocked attempts by Kadeem Dacres and Dave Vaeth. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels converted their first three attempts by Cameron Brown, Martin Murphy and Alex Walters before Phil UMBC's Saunders saved David Walden's try.
It wasn't enough, as UMBC has never gotten past the second round in three trips to the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels (15-3-3), who have reached the last four College Cups, soccer's final four, will play in the round of 16 against Fairleigh Dickinson, which upset eighth-seeded Saint Louis 2-1 in double overtime. UNC will host that third-round match at 5 p.m. Sunday as it bids to become the first team to win back-to-back NCAA titles since Indiana did it in 2003-04.
"Obviously we're disappointed with not getting the result, but I'm very proud of our team," UMBC coach Pete Caringi Jr. said. "Our stretch run the last few weeks has been amazing. We had to go to Old Dominion, and then play the defending champs and were penalty kicks from advancing.
"I'm very proud of what they've accomplished. They put UMBC on the map in soccer."
The Retrievers weren't at full strength for their biggest match of the season. Junior forward Pete Caringi III, who missed nearly all of the last two matches, came off the bench to hobble through 60 minutes of action with a sore ankle he injured in the opening minutes against New Hampshire. UMBC's leading scorer this season had to take himself out of the game three minutes into the first overtime against UNC.
"He was probably at half (speed)," the elder Caringi said. "He has worked hard , obviously he has a lot of heart. He wanted to be part of it. … Not many teams can lose the conference forward of the year and get as far as we did."
UNC outshot UMBC 12-9 in the tightly contested match that also featured four yellow cards but never got a shot in the overtimes as the Retrievers increased their scoreless streak to 551 minutes.
The best opportunity of the night came in the 61st minute, when UNC's Brown tried to one-touch a cross from six yards out. Saunders was there to block it out of bounds for one of his four saves. Goodwin, who leads the nation in goals-against average at 0.29, had two saves for UNC.
"I'm very proud we were able to advance," UNC coach Carlos Somoano said. "It was a tense game. UMBC, I can really appreciate what they put into the game today. They're clearly a very strong team.
"They pushed us to the limit."