BUIES CREEK, N.C. -- For more than 96 minutes, Campbell battled top-ranked North Carolina to a scoreless deadlock Tuesday night at the Eakes Athletic Complex, only to see a deflected shot decide the outcome.
Raby George jumped on a loose ball in the Camel box and sent a shot on target that appeared to be covered by Campbell keeper Ethan Hall. However, CU senior back Eduardo Rodriguez stretched in an attempt to clear George's effort and inadvertly deflected the ball by Hall to allow UNC to escape an upset.
North Carolina (3-0-2) left Buies Creek with a win for the first time in its last three trips to the Eakes Complex, following losses in 2006 and 2008 while ranked in the nation's top 10.
Campbell (1-4) dropped to 0-5 all-time against number-one ranked teams since the start of the 1982 campaign, but played its tightest match ever against a squad that topped the national polls.
"Overall, I was pleased with our performance," said fourth-year Campbell head coach Steve Armas. "Obviously when you're on that end of the outcome, it's disappointing. But when you reflect on it, we can take away many positives we see in this game and hopefully build on it. To play the number-one team in the country even is a tribute to our guys. They played for each other and did a good job of taking the game plan the coaches devised and implementing it."
Campbell squared off against the nationally-top-ranked team for the first time since a 3-0 setback against No.-1 Duke on Oct. 20, 1999 and extended the Tar Heels into extra time.
The Camels nearly earned their third victory over a nationally-ranked side in the last two years when Travis Golden rose to meet Justin Franz' corner kick in the 93rd minute, but Golden's header sailed wide of the left post.
North Carolina earned a corner kick three minutes later to set up the winning goal. The Camels failed to clear the corner and Josh Rice launched a shot inside the box that Hall saved, but could not hold. The ball fell to George's feet and he scored his third goal of the season to end Campbell's upset hopes.
Just a minute into the start of the match, Franz struck a shot from more than 40 yards out that sailed over UNC keeper Brendan Moore's crossbar. On the ensuing goal kick, Moore's service sailed well beyond half-field and was flicked on to Cooper Vandermaas-Peeler, who broke behind the Camel back four.
Hall charged off his line, however, and saved the UNC forward's shot well into the crowded hill at the Eakes Complex for a throw-in.
In the 44th minute, Pepe Rangel slid the ball through to Camel forward Jhuvon Francis behind the UNC defense, but the ball popped up near the top of the area and the CU striker was whistled for a handball before he could release a strike.
Francis again broke into the UNC third in the 53rd minute on a well-weighted pass from Reafe Anderson down the right flank. The junior forward hit a low shot, but Moore held on a the near post to keep the match scoreless.
After 70 minutes of play, a Campbell handball at the top of the area set up George's free kick. His right-footed effort curled around the wall, but stayed just wide of the right post.
Less than a minute later, Francis again caused problems for the top-ranked Tar Heels. Franz split the defense and Francis cut back twice at the corner of the box to gain room for a shot, but Moore again held.
In the 87th minute, North Carolina's Jordan McCrary and Anderson of Campbell were shown red cards after the two became tangled near the goal line.
Carolina nearly snagged the lead late in regulation on Omar Holness' header off an Alex Olofson corner, but the ball sailed wide of Hall's left post in the 89th minute.
UNC finished the contest with a 16-8 edge in shots, 7-3 in attempts on target, and took 6 corners to 3 for the Camels. Hall made 6 saves in the Camel nets, while Moore finished with 3 tops for the Tar Heels.
Campbell again will meet a nationally-ranked team Saturday when the Camels travel to No.-28 Charlotte for a 7:00 p.m. kick-off.