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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels take down pro squad

Carolina RailHawks keeper Eric Reed tried his best to keep UNC’s Alex Dixon away from the goal, but the junior had six shots and scored once.
Carolina RailHawks keeper Eric Reed tried his best to keep UNC’s Alex Dixon away from the goal, but the junior had six shots and scored once.

It may not go in the season win column, but the UNC men’s soccer team’s 3-1 defeat of the Carolina RailHawks significantly raised the confidence of a team carrying lofty expectations.

The RailHawks, a professional soccer club based out of Cary, presented a more experienced and physical challenge than most other college teams. Though older, stronger and savvier, it was youth and determination that won out.

“I think it’s great for our team,” junior midfielder Kirk Urso said. “We’re still in the preseason so we are still trying to figure things out and I think this was a good opportunity for us.”

Both sides were handed opportunities in the early going of the match with the RailHawks missing a three-on-one breakaway and UNC’s Alex Dixon pushing a shot just wide with only the goalie to beat.

With open shots being taken frequently, it seemed only a matter of time until one went in. Then, in the 34th minute, Dixon pounced on a slow pass, tipped the ball out of the keeper’s reach and curved the ball into the right corner of the net.

“I was just hoping that the defender wouldn’t swipe it out of the air, but he slid under it and I just put it over him,” Dixon said.

With UNC up 1-0 at halftime, the RailHawks came out with a renewed intensity and took the physicality up a notch. In the 48th minute, RailHawk forward Andriy Budnyy collected a well-played through ball but was taken out by freshman goalie Brendan Moore on the corner of the box. Consequently, Budnyy was granted a penalty kick and tied the game.

After UNC coach Elmar Bolowich subbed in his backups, the RailHawks began to tire under the pressure of fresh legs.

“We did the same thing against Wilmington, we wanted to integrate the freshmen right away,” Bolowich said. “At that time it looked like you threw a fire cracker into an ant hill.”

This time, the freshmen played a lot more composedly. And it was redshirt freshman Josh Rice who put the Tar Heels up for good when he rocketed an outward bending shot into the upper right corner.

“I just had space and hit it straight on,” Rice said. “I hit it with my in-step and it just kind of bended into the corner.”

The nail in the coffin came in the 85th minute when UNC freshman Carlos McCrary took a pass from Robbie Lovejoy and poked it just past the goalie.

The game was the last of three exhibition matches for the Tar Heels before the much-anticipated season opener against defending national champion Akron. Bolowich was pleased with his team’s performance as they head toward the weekend.

“Today was actually a very pleasant surprise on all fronts,” Bolowich said. “The back line did a good job, the midfielders worked extremely hard and put in the effort.”

But Urso saw flaws in the team’s play not reflected by the score. Though the RailHawks scored only once, they had multiple opportunities that missed by less than a yard.

“I think we learned some things that we need to work on,” Urso said. “Things like shape, pressuring, moving forward with the ball, little things really.”

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