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The Daily Tar Heel

Kneipper Thrives in Expanded Role

Kneipper didn't have too much luck utilizing his 6-foot-3 frame earlier in the game, so he reverted to his ball skills to finally find the back of the net in UNC's 4-0 win at the Method Road Soccer Complex on Sunday.

The junior from Dallas blasted a Mike Gell pass by Watson from five yards out to cap UNC's scoring and to top off a week in which he surged near the top of his team's scoring list.

Kneipper, who also tallied an assist against State, exploded for three goals Wednesday against Charlotte to pace the Tar Heels' 3-0 win against the 49ers. He is currently tied for second on the Tar Heels with seven goals.

"I'm kind of, right now, really feeling it," said Kneipper, who earned his second career start in the win against State. "I hope I can continue to play well starting; if I have to come off the bench and produce, that's fine."

In the past, Kneipper consistently was marched onto the field when the Tar Heels looked to force action in the box, where the team could target him for headers on-goal.

In last year's snow-covered NCAA Tournament game against William & Mary, the Tar Heels employed that strategy to perfection. Kneipper scored the game-winner in the 3-2 overtime victory to help UNC avoid a first-round loss.

And while Tar Heels' coach Elmar Bolowich said Kneipper always has had good technical skills, he said he wanted Kneipper to keep working on his big-man skills around the goal.

"He prefers the ground game probably more than the air game, but we needed to develop that because that's certainly a weapon," Bolowich said. "We don't have many tall guys on our team, so we have to rely on him to flick balls on and redirect balls.

"(Today) he was strong on the ball, holding the ball, dishing the ball off -- things we tried to groom him into."

Not only did Kneipper play a strong physical match, he also had all the other facets of his game working Sunday.

In the game's 63rd minute, he deftly tapped a Raymond Fumo cross ahead for an isolated David Testo, who topped a shot past Watson for the Tar Heels' third goal of the match.

Kneipper's ability to play effectively with the ball in the air and at his feet is a good indication of the versatility North Carolina has in its still-young front line.

And if Kneipper keeps growing into his role of sure-footed big man, the Tar Heels' offense should continue to produce.

"If we need a goal, we can pump it in and get Kneipper to flick it on (or) get (Jonathan Davis) to come in there -- they're big guys," Gell said. "We also have speed. We have me and Marcus (Storey) out wide, who can burn it up. We can pretty much do what we want with anybody."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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