In what could be described as a severe case of déjà vu, the UMBC men's soccer team again won in dramatic fashion Thursday night, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 4-2 win in penalty kicks after a scoreless game at Old Dominion.
Five days earlier, UMBC clinched the America East title in a 4-2 PK shootout after blanking New Hampshire for 90 minutes of regulation play and two overtime periods.
"It's very eerie how we won," coach Pete Caringi with laugh. "It was funny because we had the same five shooters and [goalkeeper] Phil [Saunders] came up with some big saves."
But the road to the College Cup will only get tougher as the Retrievers (11-4-6) travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face the No. 9 seed and defending national champion North Carolina (15-3-2) Sunday at 5 p.m.
"We are excited about the challenge," Caringi said. "We are playing some pretty good soccer, and at this time of the year it's all about who is playing well. ... We are prepared to go down there and play as hard as we can."
The Retrievers haven't been 100 percent since losing their leading goal scorer, forward Pete Caringi III, to an ankle injury in the fourth minute of the conference championship game.
Tthe coach's son, played just 46 seconds in the win over Old Dominion on Thursday, and the loss of the nation's eighth-leading goal scorer (14) has become apparent on offense, as UMBC has failed to score in its last two games.
"It's very concerning," the elder Caringi said. "The good thing is we have had the chances. The bad thing is we have not capitalized on those opportunities."
The Tar Heels expect a challenge no matter who starts.
"I know they are a very strong team. There are no easy games in the NCAA tournament, and I'm sure we are going to have our hands full," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "The bottom line is we expect a strong test no matter what."
Caringi has been pleased with his son's progress over the past week and remains optimistic that he will be able to play Sunday. Getting him back would be a "big plus" to an already confident team, especially with the way the defense has been playing, Caringi said.
Thursday's victory extended the Retrievers' win streak to eight games. In that span, dating back to Oct. 13 against Boston University, the Retrievers have not allowed more than one goal in any game, and they have shut out their last four opponents.
That gives Caringi confidence, especially the game goes to another shootout.
"I'm really confident [Phil] is going to stop a couple," he said of Saunders, a Perry Hall alum. "But we definitely won't play for [penalty kicks]."