CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The GW men’s soccer team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history Friday night, defeating the University of North Carolina 1-0 at Fetzer Stadium.
The Colonials’ last Tournament win came in 1989. GW has not lost in 10 straight games this season, a program record. The Colonials will face No. 16 seed Virginia Commonwealth University in the second round Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Richmond, Va.
The Colonials took an early lead and continued to pound away at the Tar Heels’ defense for the rest of the way. Less than two minutes in, junior Frank Ambrosio scored on a header from classmate Trevor Martin. The North Carolina goalkeeper got his hands on the ball but bobbled it just enough for it to sneak behind the goal line. Ambrosio has been a key member of GW’s success in the second half of the season, recording 16 of his 18 total points during his team’s 10-game unbeaten streak.
Ambrosio said scoring early helped GW (10-8-4) keep up its level of play against UNC (10-9-2).
“When we talked, the main objective was to score early, and we did it,” he said. “We knew it would help us relax, get into game more, and worry about other things. The defense got us through.”
GW out-shot its opponent 7-6 in the first half. Junior goalkeeper Derek Biss, the Atlantic 10 Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, made three key saves to keep UNC scoreless. The Colonial defense also stepped up to block two other shots on goal.
Biss said he was able to handle the pressure of playing in single elimination games because he trusted his teammates to back him up.
“I have confidence in the players,” he said. “There’s people dropping in. They’re composed and can contain a lot of the pressure. They took a ton of shots, but I only had to deal with five or six.”
The second half started off more physical, as senior captain Trent Wilee and sophomore Jeremiah Burke both received yellow cards in the 52nd minute of the game. A UNC player got a yellow card 15 minutes later after colliding with junior Steve Brown.
Near the end of the game, the Tar Heels came close to tying the score and sending the game into overtime. With less than five minutes remaining, Biss got his fingertips on a shot and knocked it just over the goal. Less than a minute later, the Tar Heels nearly slipped the ball into the lower left corner of the goal, but Biss hit it out in time.
“It was a game we knew was going to be tough,” GW head coach George Lidster said. “Clearly we were underdogs, although my players didn’t think that. Scoring early was best thing, and we defended heroically for the rest of the game.”
Although the Tar Heels out-shot the Colonials 17-14, Biss saved all six of the shots on goal. GW won the teams’ only other face-off 1-0 in 1979.
The win gave GW the chance to continue a season that did not appear to be destined for postseason play early on. The Colonials turned a 1-8-3 start into an A-10 title and the opportunity to advance in the NCAA Tournament.
“It shows that they have character,” Lidster said. “It is a team. We’ve had more talented teams, but it isn’t always talent that gets you results. This team is a proven factor. They have respect and help each other.”
The Colonials’ second round match-up will not be too a daunting task, Ambrosio said.
“We’re going to go into it thinking we can win,” he said. “We’re not worried about who they are. We’ll go in as any other game, attack how we want to, and hopefully things will work out.”