Men's soccer rebounds with shutout victory

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Cooper Vandermaas-Peeler (21) passes the ball forward up the field.

After picking up two consecutive victories against Boston College and Syracuse — at the time, the team’s first wins in nearly a month — things were starting to turn around for the North Carolina men’s soccer team.

Last Tuesday, UNC-Wilmington traveled to Chapel Hill and threw a monkey wrench in the works, ending UNC’s streak by handing the team its third loss on the year.

But the No. 11 Tar Heels (6-3-5, 3-1-5 ACC) rebounded with a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh (0-9-4, 0-7-2 ACC) Saturday night.

Coach Carlos Somoano said the team approached the match like it does usually, but challenged his team to respond with a little bit of urgency.

“We take every game as a new opportunity. I don’t think you can get too down about a loss because that doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your next game,” he said. “You just have to try and put one foot in front of the other and move it along as fast and far as you can.”

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.”

sports@dailytarheel.com

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