Photo Courtesy of UNC Athletic
The college postseason has come to an end, and one FC Dallas Academy product is now a national champion. In 2011’s final edition of the FC Dallas College Round-up, we look at the final three games played by Academy graduate Boyd “OC” Okwuonu and his North Carolina Tar Heels that led to the team’s first national championship in 10 years.
University of North Carolina (21-2-3) – Boyd Okwuonu (Freshman, Defender)
No. 1 North Carolina advanced to its fourth consecutive College Cup by defeating a visiting St. Mary’s squad 2-0 on Dec. 3 in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels’ goals came from senior defender Matt Hedges in the 53rd minute and junior forward Ben Speas in the 65th. Okwuonu started and played the full 90 minutes in central defense to help UNC advance to the tournament semifinals.
North Carolina met a stiffer challenge in the final four against UCLA on Dec. 10. The Bruins jumped out to an early lead when midfielder Ryan Hollingshead opened the scoring in the 17th minute. UNC tied the game 10 minutes into the second half off a strike by sophomore forward Rob Lovejoy, but UCLA reclaimed the advantage in the 74th minute when U.S. U-20 MNT midfielder Kelyn Rowe tallied for the Bruins. The Tar Heels battled back to even the score when junior forward Billy Schuler netted the game-tying goal in the 85th minute.
After 20 minutes of scoreless overtime action, the game went to penalty kicks, where North Carolina claimed a 3-1 victory to advance to its third NCAA Championship in school history. Once again, Okwuonu started and played the entire match.
UNC met in-state rival Charlotte in the national championship. The 49ers potent offense got off 19 shots, but Okwuonu and the the North Carolina defense held on and pitched a 1-0 shutout. The lone goal of the game was scored by Speas in the 65th minute. In the title-clinching victory, Okwuonu made his 26th straight start and played the full 90 minutes.
“It’s a blessing from God to be a part of this legacy,” said Okwuonu. “We have accomplished a lot this year through hard work and dedication. Throughout the season the team progressed and I believe we have a bright future ahead of us.”
In addition to winning the ACC regular season title, the ACC tournament title and the NCAA Championship with the Tar Heels, Okwuonu was also named to the College Soccer News Freshman All-America Team in 2011. The FC Dallas Academy product was one of four players – and the only freshman – to start all 26 games for UNC this year, seeing more minutes than any other field player on the squad.
“Receiving the All-American award meant a lot to me because it shows that hard work really does pay off,” the freshman defender said. “Being part of FC Dallas really helped me become a more mature player. Oscar Pareja and the rest of the coaching staff have really shown me how to better myself, not only on the field, but also off the field. The FCD Academy was the perfect place for me to develop as a player and that’s what helped me make such an impact my freshman year.”
With the 2011 season in the books and a couple of new trophies in the case at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels will be playing with a target on its back next year. Okwuonu feels his team will be ready to exceed expectations in 2012, especially with the help of former FCD Academy teammate Danny Garcia, who recently committed to the UNC.
“I am really excited to have Danny Garcia on this team next year,” Okwuonu said. “He’ll fit in very well with the team and I know he’ll make a big impact as well. Our team isn’t worried about the pressure for next year. This is just the beginning for us.”