North Carolina

Tar Heels notch national soccer honors

Posted December 24, 2011

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Junior forward Ben Speas, who scored the game-winning goal in the NCAA men’s soccer national championship game, and Carlos Somoano, who led UNC to the national title in his first year as head coach, are Soccer America’s National Player and Coach of the Year, respectively.

The awards are the first national player and coach of the year honors presented by Soccer America to the Tar Heels. Speas is the first Tar Heel men's soccer player to earn National Player of the Year honors.

Speas, a native of Stow, Ohio, finished the championship season with seven goals and 10 assists for 24 points. In addition to scoring the only goal in the national championship match against Charlotte, Speas had an assist in the semifinal win over UCLA and scored the deciding penalty kick to send the Tar Heels to the finals. He also had two goals and an assist in a 3-1 win over Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game.

“I am very happy for Ben,” says Somoano. “The award is reflective of the stretch he had late in the year, especially in the NCAA Tournament and the College Cup. His ability to help us win some of the biggest games of the year was invaluable. (As a transfer from Akron) It took him a little while to settle in and get confident but then he took off. I always felt confident in him and I knew he was helping us from the beginning but didn’t have the stats for the first six or seven games. Even then I thought he was one of our best players.”

Somoano: It's been an emotional, long road Somoano: It's been an emotional, long road

Somoano led Carolina to a 21-2-3 record, ACC regular-season and Tournament titles, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the national championship. UNC became just the second school (Virginia) to win the ACC regular-season and Tournament titles and the NCAA championship in the same season. The Tar Heels went 13-0-2 at home and 5-1-2 in ACC regular-season play.

Somoano became the second coach to win the title and third to win at least 20 games in his first season as head coach. He also won ACCCoach of the Year honors.

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