CARY — Whether Elmar Bolowich or Carlos Somoano is the coach, the North Carolina men's soccer program continues to collect ACC championship hardware.
The Tar Heels won the conference title Sunday with a complete performance in a 3-1 win against Boston College at WakeMed Soccer Stadium. Ben Speas scored twice en route to tournament MVP honors, and Carlos McCrary added another goal.
In his first year as coach of the top-seeded Tar Heels (17-2-2) after Bolowich left for Creighton, Somoano helped guide UNC to its third straight ACC regular-season crown. He was named the conference coach of the year as a tribute to his effort.
The ACC tournament title was something relatively novel - the last time UNC won was in 2000.
"It shows to everyone that what he's doing is the right thing," UNC's Enzo Martinez said of his coach. "I remember from the spring, one of the things that hit all of us hard was his confidence in himself. He told us, 'I believe I'm the right guy for this job.'
"He's proved it so far."
Bubba Cunningham watched his first UNC men's soccer game since he was named the Tar Heels' athletic director last month and had to have liked what he saw. Former athletics director Dick Baddour was also at the game on his last day on the job - Cunningham officially starts Monday.
Two days after needing overtime to oust Virginia, the Tar Heels didn't wait nearly as long to open the scoring. Speas got free in the right side of the box in the 38th minute and crossed the ball over to McCrary, who headed it down and inside the left post.
The Tar Heels benefitted from a fortuitous break some 5 minutes later.
Speas took a free kick from 40 yards out, and as Boston College keeper Justin Luthy went out to grab it, he collided with UNC's Matt Hedges and Martinez. The ball sailed over his hands as a result and bounced into the net.
"On those long ones," Speas said, "you want to keep it on goal just in case something like that does happen."
Boston College players protested to officials - there was some contact on the play - but the ref only offered a head shake.
Despite the intimidating scoreline - UNC entered the game having only yielded 13 goals all season - the Eagles made things interesting in the second half. In the 62nd minute, Kyle Bekker took a phenomenal free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, bending the ball around the UNC wall, off the right goal post and into the net.
"They put us under a lot of pressure in the second half and responded extremely well," Somoano said. "We haven't had to deal with a team coming at us like that much this season, and I have to give them a lot of credit for that."
But before the anticipation could build, Billy Schuler sent a low cross over to Speas, who outran his defender in the box and tapped the ball into the net to give another two-goal advantage.
Next up for the Tar Heels and Somoano will be the NCAA tournament, where they figure to be a top seed.
UNC reached the College Cup the past three years under Bolowich, but its seasons ended with a loss all three times. So there is an opportunity for Somoano to do something new, though UNC did win the NCAA title in 2001.