CARY -- Technically, Akron is no longer undefeated.
But the No. 1 men's soccer team in the country did advance to the title game of the NCAA College Cup, even if it took a shootout.
Junior midfielder Blair Gavin delivered the deciding penalty kick to the lower-left corner of the frame, and Akron (23-0-1) got by North Carolina in chilly conditions at WakeMed Soccer Park Friday.
"I didn't want to let my team down," Gavin said. "I had belief in myself. There was no way I was going to let my team down and disappoint them."
The only penalty kick that didn't find net was off the foot of North Carolina senior defender Jordan Graye, who sailed the ball high.
But earlier in the game, Graye broke up one of Akron's best scoring chances and nearly won the game in double overtime, heading a corner kick that was headed out on the line by Akron freshman Ben Speas.
Akron will face Virginia for the national championship on Sunday.
UNC goalie Brooks Haggerty praised the Heels for forcing the shootout, and shouldered blame in losing the shootout.
"I just tried to pick a side and go to it," Haggerty said. "I overreacted to a couple of the early shots."
But Haggerty, a former Cary High standout, was flawless in regulation and two overtimes, with 7 saves in front of his home town.
"I'm a little disappointed we didn't run a play in regulation," Akron coach Caleb Porter said. "It was much more of a soccer game than we've seen."
Akron controlled the tempo of much of the game. The Zips often displayed more organization and precision in their passing attack, but were successfully shut down by North Carolina's defense, even with the dangerous scoring chances created by sophomore forward Teal Bunbury, who used his speed to rush by the Carolina defense.
Bunbury had his chances in both halves, but one of his most dangerous rushes was early in the second half, and broken up by Graye, who used his body to block out Bunbury.
"He was on a foot race on one of them," Porter said, giving credit to North Carolina's defenders. "[Tar Heels senior defender Zach Loyd] did a tremendous job of putting out fires."
Another Bunbury shot in the second half was deflected out by a diving Haggerty, leaving only two North Carolina defenders between Akron's Scott Caldwell. But the freshman fired left.
While UNC (16-2-4) did mount several attacks, it often found itself playing defense, especially after it lost sophomore defender Brett King with just over 20 minutes left in the game after he was given his second yellow card.
North Carolina coach Elmar Bolowich said he wasn't too concerned about playing a man down.
"It was a matter of keeping our organization and the players understanding how we need to press," Bolowich said. "I felt OK. ... We have done it in practice on numerous occasions and the guys were comfortable doing it in practice as well. It's not unfamiliar territory."
And UNC's best chance came in the second overtime.
The Heels were robbed by Speas, whose forehead was all that stood before the game's only goal. On a corner kick, Graye headed the ball towards the right corner from close range but Speas was there.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-836-4953