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The Daily Tar Heel

Dixon strikes again for UNC

Tar Heels advance to NCAA quarter?nals with victory

For the first 20 minutes of Sunday’s third-round NCAA match between North Carolina and Indiana, Hoosiers coach Mike Freitag thought nobody wanted to play.

Neither team produced any golden opportunities, and possession kept getting squandered around midfield.

Quite frankly, Freitag believed the game was dull.

But in the 28th minute, that all changed — in regrettable fashion, too, for Freitag and all those in red.

At that point, UNC forward Alex Dixon settled a pass inside Indiana’s 18-yard box and fired in a splendid goal between two IU defenders. The strike eventually proved the game winner, as North Carolina won, 1-0.

It was the sophomore’s second goal in two games and a sharp transition from his early-season struggles.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries and stuff,” Dixon said. “I’m getting healthier and healthier. Just getting my confidence back, and it’s giving me the extra motivation to go out there and help.”

The No. 5 seed Tar Heels (15-2-3) now held the lead, and seemingly, a ticket to the NCAA quarterfinals.

With a team that has allowed just 11 goals on the season, UNC coach Elmar Bolowich could go the conservative route and hold his squad back on defensive.

But instead, he did just the opposite.

“We didn’t want to go into any defensive formations whatsoever,” Bolowich said. “We needed that second goal. I encouraged the players to attack even more forcefully and throw even more players forward.

“I always feel that attack is our best defense.”

The Tar Heels never got that added cushion, but they did get close.

Minutes after Dixon’s goal, captain Zach Loyd drove a header toward Indiana’s back post. A Hoosiers defender standing on the goal line was just able to deflect the ball safely away.

IU’s goalkeeper, Luis Soffner, was bombarded again and again on North Carolina corner kicks, as sophomore Kirk Urso essentially hit curving shots from the corner flag.

“It’s not the only (corner kick) we have, but when we do run it — and today Kirk almost scored from it,” Bolowich said. “The keeper was caught on the near post, and fortunately (for IU), he got a hand on it and cleared it off the line.”

Soffner’s counterpart in goal, North Carolina keeper Brooks Haggerty, didn’t face such problems.

The senior tallied four saves on the day, as the North Carolina defense limited Indiana (12-10-1) to long-range efforts — whether that was shots or opportunistic crosses.

The only real chance for Indiana occurred toward the first half’s closing as IU forward Darren Yeagle headed a beautiful cross just wide of goal.

Haggerty watched helplessly as Yeagle made contact, but the effort was meager and misguided.

North Carolina defender Jordan Graye, for one, didn’t seem too troubled by Indiana’s efforts afterward.

“We’re trying to keep our defense together and as a unit. It’s crunch time,” he said. “It’s important for us to get the first goal.

“We know if we get that first one, we can pretty much hold it down in the back.”

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