WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/CARY–Temperatures dropped below freezing Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park right around the time Brian Ownby scored a golden goal to lift the Virginia Cavaliers over Wake Forest in the semifinal of the 2009 College Cup. Three hours later, it was even colder as a diehard contingent endured 110 minutes of scoreless play between the undefeated and No. 1-ranked University of Akron and the fifth-ranked UNC Tar Heels before the Zips (23-0-1) won on penalty kicks when UNC defender Jordan Graye shanked his effort over the goal.

The night’s real drama came in the sudden-death overtime of the first game between the Demon Deacons and the Cavaliers (18-3-3). The winner came in the third minute of overtime as Ownby, a sophomore from Glen Allen, Va., took a long pass from Jonathan Villanueva. Ownby, whose playing time has been limited by a hernia, beat Wake’s Anthony Arena and Ike Opara, chipped the ball past Wake Forest’s keeper Akira Fitzgerald and tore off his jersey on his way to embrace his teammates on the sideline.

At the center of the field, Wake Forest’s senior striker Zack Schilawski stood still, stunned. Wake had equalized in the game’s 70th minute on an unassisted foray by All-American midfielder Corben Bone, and the Deacons seemed to have the momentum going into overtime. Now the game was over, and Schilawski stood still for a long time, moving only when opposing players came over to console him.

It was a tough end for the Cary native’s amateur career. An All-American at Cary High, he was also a member of the Cary Clarets, the team of college amateurs that plays in the USL’s Player Development League (PDL).

As it happens, I witnessed one highlight of Schilawski’s amateur career that’s not on his online Wake Forest bio. It occurred on the same field in the summer of 2008, when his PDL team, then known as the Cary RailHawks, defeated a visiting side from the English Coca-Cola Championship, a team called Burnley FC. After Burnley struck first with a goal by midfielder Wade Elliott, Schilawski leveled after exploiting an error by Graham Alexander, then as now his team’s defensive mainstay. The RailHawks clinched the game in the 76th minute on a goal by N.C. State’s Tyler Lassiter, off an assist from Wake Forest’s midfielder Bone.

Looking back over that game, I’m struck by the fact that four people who saw action for the RailHawks that evening have played key roles for this weekend’s College Cup: In addition to Schilawski and Bone, Wake keeper Fitzgerald and UNC defender Graye also saw action that night.

The RailHawks had some other impressive names who were selected for that Burnley game:

  • Darrius Barnes (UNC then, New England Revolution now)
  • Mamadou Danso (Portland Timbers now)
  • Evan Brown (Wake Forest then, subsequently drafted by MLS Seattle Sounders and later waived)
  • Michael Callahan (UNC then, Austin Aztex now)
  • Michael Videira (Duke, New England Revolution)
  • Brian Shriver (UNC, Miami FC)

Apparently Burnley, which would go on to play its way into the Premier League last spring, didn’t mind losing a preseason game in Cary, North Carolina under brutally hot conditions. The club went on to lend its brand, nickname and colors to the Cary Clarets, which is no longer affiliated with the RailHawks. (The Cary Clarets, by the way, remain in the United Soccer Leagues PDL division while its former parent club, the RailHawks, has left the USL-1 and is now planning to play in the new NASL.)

The most recent Clarets roster, from last summer, featured nine players who have participated in this weekend’s College Cup. Only one, Millington, failed to see action.

  • Brown, Cameron UNC Chapel Hill
  • Fitzgerald, Akira Wake Forest University
  • Graye, Jordan UNC Chapel Hill
  • Haggerty, Brooks UNC Chapel Hill
  • Millington, Nick Wake Forest University
  • Opara, Ike Wake Forest University
  • Restrepo, Diego University of Virginia
  • Schilawski, Zack Wake Forest University
  • Schuler, Billy UNC Chapel Hill

While the Wake Forest season didn’t end so well, midfielder Bone was named one of the three finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the college soccer equivalent of the Heisman. Also named as a finalist: Akron striker Teal Bunbury, who was effectively bottled up by UNC defender Zach Loyd on Friday night.

Will Bunbury break out at this afternoon’s championship? Tune in to ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Among other things, it’s a safe bet that a handful of future pros are in this game. So, after you’re done with the Liverpool-Arsenal match…