"It is exciting to be playing for the national championship. It is where we expected to be all season," Ken Lolla said. "We are excited at this point to be able to compete for it. For this group and this team, it's a goal we set at the beginning of the season."
The game started out very back and forth between Louisville and North Carolina. Neither team could really get an advantage over the other. The Cardinals had the first opportunity of the game as a shot from Charlie Campbell looked as though was going to go in for a goal but was saved at the last moment by one of the North Carolina defenders.
On the rebound off the team save, Campbell was able to get off another shot, this one from about 20 yards out. He sent a rocket towards Tar Heel keeper Scott Goodwin, who made a leaping save to keep the Cardinals off the board.
The final 20 minutes of the first half remained even between the two schools as neither got a good look at a goal before the half ended in a 0-0 scoreless tie.
North Carolina finished the first half with a 5-4 shot advantage, while Louisville held a 6-0 corner kick advantage. Louisville keeper Andre Boudreaux went the first half untested, while Goodwin finished with one save.
The second half started out quick for the Cardinals as Colin Rolfe got a shot off in the 49th minute that went wide left of the goal. Louisville almost struck again in the 51st minute as Nick DeLeon received a pass from Rolfe as he was streaking down the left side of the field. DeLeon got past the North Carolina defense, but his shot went just wide right of the goal.
Louisville kept the offensive pressure up in the 54th minute as Andrew Farrell collected a clear-out by the Tar Heel defense. He blasted a shot that missed just wide left of the goal.
The Cardinals finally struck in the 57th minute off a corner kick from Mares. As Mares played in the ball, Austin Berry leapt into the air, winning the battle as his header found the upper left-hand corner of the net to put Louisville up 1-0. The goal was Berry's fifth of the season.
The Tar Heels evened up the score in the 61st minute as Alex Dixon crossed the ball into the box and found Stephen McCarthy for the header to even the score at 1-1. North Carolina almost scored again in the 82nd minute as a shot from Enzo Martinez sailed high above the crossbar.
The Cardinals struck again for the second goal of the half as Horton broke past the Tar Heel defense, receiving a pass from Ryan Smith. Horton was able to lob the shot over the keeper to put Louisville up 2-1 with 0:51 remaining in the game. The goal was Horton's third goal of the season and the second game-winner in a row in the final minute of the game.
Louisville was able to hold on as the final few seconds ticked away sending the Cardinals to their first ever national championship game.
Louisville finished the game with an 11-9 shot advantage, along with a 7-1 corner kick advantage. Boudreaux finished the game with two saves, while Goodwin finished with one.
The Cardinals will be back in action on Sunday, Dec. 12, to face Akron in the national championship at 4 pm.