CARY, N.C. Zack Schilawski always dreamed of scoring big goals in his hometown.
He delivered the biggest one of his career there Sunday, scoring the eventual game-winner to lift Wake Forest to a 2-1 victory over Ohio State in the NCAA College Cup championship.
"It's unbelievable," said Schilawski, who graduated from Cary High School. "Growing up here, I've seen a lot of great games on that field. It's a thrill just to be a part of a game like that, much less to win it. It was perfect."
Schilawski snapped a 1-1 tie with a goal in the 77th minute to help his team win the first NCAA men's soccer title in school history. The second-seeded Demon Deacons (22-2-2), who had been 0-2-1 when trailing at halftime this season, rallied from a 1-0 deficit.
No. 5 seed Ohio State (17-4-5), which was playing in the College Cup for the first time in school history, entered the contest undefeated when scoring first and unbeaten when leading at halftime. But the Buckeyes couldn't hold on after Roger Espinoza gave them a lead with a goal in the 13th minute, and their school-record 15-game unbeaten streak came to an end.
Ohio State owned a 12-3 advantage in shots during the first half, but the Demon Deacons dominated play in the second period while outshooting the Buckeyes 9-0.
"There was no reason to attack if we were already winning," Espinoza said. "We thought we already had the game won. Well, not won, but we didn't need a second goal.
"We were just going to play and whatever happened, we were going to go with that. We just made a couple of mistakes, and that's what happened."
Schilawski, who assisted on a goal by Marcus Tracy in Wake Forest's 2-0 victory over Virginia Tech in the semifinals Friday night, scored against the Buckeyes on a feed from Tracy.
Tracy powered his way through two defenders on the right flank, then juked past Doug Verhoff before crossing a pass to the middle of the field. Schilawski beat Ohio State goalkeeper Casey Latchem with a one-hop shot just inside the right post.
Latchem sprinted over to an official to argue that Tracy had touched the ball with his hand early in the sequence, and Latchem received a yellow card.
"In watching the television replay following that goal, I thought it was pretty apparent that there was a handball on the play," said Ohio State coach John Bluem, whose team allowed more than one goal for only the second time since Sept. 23. "That's what Casey was upset about."
Tracy, who tied the game in the 66th minute with a goal on a feed from Cody Arnoux, disagreed with the Buckeyes' assessment.
"I've played in a lot of games, and controversial calls have gone both ways," said Tracy, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Offensive Player after tallying three goals and an assist in the College Cup. "I don't think it was a handball personally, and they didn't call it. So that's just the way it goes."
Goalkeeper Brian Edwards was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Defensive Player after making four saves for Wake Forest, which scored both of its goals after attacking runs down the right side of the field. The Buckeyes were vulnerable because they lost their starting left back, junior Tim Gabel, to injury early in the game.
"I think that hurt us," Bluem said.
Wake Forest had a key defensive injury of its own. Senior Julian Valentin was kicked in the head late in the second half, and blood poured out of his face while he received medical attention on the sideline.
Valentin took 30 stitches after the game to close cuts to the bridge of his nose, cheek and brow, but he had no complaints.
That's because the Demon Deacons, who were eliminated by UC Santa Barbara on penalty kicks in the national semifinals last season, had accomplished their goal of returning to the College Cup and winning it.
"To come so close last year was tough for everyone," Schilawski said. "Now it just makes it that much sweeter."