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College Cup turns coaching friends into foes

Published: December 6, 2011

Rev up the hype machine, we’ve got a potential juicy plot on our hands.

If North Carolina and first-year coach Carlos Somoano were to advance past College Cup opponent UCLA, and Creighton defeated Charlotte (see where I’m going with this?), North Carolina’s past and present would come face-to-face with a national championship hanging in the balance. 
Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich, the man who led the Tar Heels program to unchartered heights during his 22-year tenure with the team before leaving to join the Bluejays in the offseason, would get his first look at his old flame including the new man in charge – the same man who served as his top assistant for the last nine seasons.

north carolina men's college soccer coach Carlos SomoanoCarlos Somoano (North Carolina Athletics)
Sure, there are a few “ifs” standing in the way of that scenario, but it’s too ironic a twist not to get ahead of ourselves.
Unless, of course, you’re one of the coaches involved. Then it’s pure one-game-at-a-time, coach-speak.
“We stay in touch,” said Somoano, of he and his mentor Bolowich. “I’m happy for his success and that they have been able to do well.
“It’s the objective of a lot of teams to reach the College Cup, and it’s a hard thing to do. I can’t think of how many teams there are that don’t have the opportunity, so we’re grateful for that.”

Somoano, in particular, has to be pretty stoked about his position. It isn’t often that a first-year coach reaches the pinnacle of college soccer. Not that Somoano is your typical first-year coach. 
With the team’s 2-0 quarterfinal win over St. Mary’s this past weekend, Somoano became the third coach in NCAA history to win 20 games in his first year. And given his experience, it’s impossible to label him a rookie.

This is North Carolina’s fourth consecutive College Cup appearance, so this is more like an extension of what Somoano has experienced in his prior three seasons.
With a few notable exceptions.
“There’s a lot more face time,” he said. “There are so many people you have to talk with (as a head coach) outside of the soccer field. That’s a major difference.”
Somoano is hoping that another distinction of his head coaching gig will be that this time his team takes the title, something the Tar Heels haven’t done since 2001. 

Oddly enough, North Carolina probably hasn’t played its best soccer in this tournament. They were seriously tested in a 3-2 second-round win against unheralded Coastal Carolina that saw them overcome a deficit in the second half. 

The Tar Heels needed overtime to nip Indiana 1-0 in the third round before getting the best of surprise program St. Mary’s.
But North Carolina is clearly the most experienced team left of the four, and they lean on a veteran core of guys like Billy Schuler, Enzo Martinez and Ben Speas.
Oh, and a veteran first-year coach who could be on a collision course with another all-too-familiar first-year veteran coach.
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