And against the Panthers, the Tar Heels answered their coach’s call — faster than usual. On the team’s first shot of the game, junior forward Cooper Vandermaas-Peeler found the back of the net with his second goal of the year — the only one needed for UNC.
“It feels good when we get an early goal, which opens up the game a little bit for us,” junior midfielder Verneri Valimaa said. “On the play, I think the team pressed very well and it ended up being significant for Cooper because he pressed the guy, who misplayed the ball, and he had a simple goal to finish.”
Despite UNC’s ability to strike so early in the game, Somoano said he didn’t want the team to focus too much on the goal.
“In the end, you have to play 90 minutes, regardless,” he said. “I think having a goal, we overanalyze the psychology of when you score it. We tell our guys all the time, we try to score every minute that we’re out on the field — in that seventh minute, in the 89th minute — we keep pressing forward to try and get goals.”
While UNC couldn’t connect on a second goal — something both Somoano and Valimaa were disappointed about — redshirt junior goalkeeper Brendan Moore and the Tar Heel defense didn’t allow the Panthers to claw their way back into the game.
The shutout was the seventh of the year for Moore, who has played every minute of the season in goal for the Tar Heels in just his first year as a starter.
“Defending a lead is never easy, but it’s something that, as the season’s gone on, we’ve gotten better at,” Moore said. “Seven clean sheets is not an easy feat but it’s something I’m proud of, and look to get more as the season goes on.”
For the Tar Heels, the loss to UNC-Wilmington couldn’t be more distant.
“We had an off day against Wilmington,” Somoano said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind we’re getting better and that’s all we can really focus on.”