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Castro's toe-poke bests Blue Devils

Bruno Castro controls the ball against Duke on Friday. The freshman’s 79th-minute goal gave UNC a 1-0 win. It was his first as a Tar Heel.
Bruno Castro controls the ball against Duke on Friday. The freshman’s 79th-minute goal gave UNC a 1-0 win. It was his first as a Tar Heel.

DURHAM — The frustrations of the North Carolina men’s soccer team were obvious.

For 78 minutes, the Tar Heels prodded and attacked a Duke team that seemed content to sit back and play for a draw. That’s when UNC freshman Bruno Castro solved the Blue Devils’ defensive puzzle, gathering a pass from striker Josh Rice and toe-poking the ball in the upper corner of the net.

The goal was enough to push No. 4 UNC past No. 11 Duke and give the Tar Heels their first win against a ranked opponent in the regular season.

“It’s a great feeling. I don’t have words to describe it,” Castro said. “Coming off the bench with 10 minutes left to score, it’s amazing.”

It was a goal Castro could carry with him for the rest of his life. The entire bench emptied, surrounding the diminutive striker and forgetting in the euphoria that there was still an additional 10 minutes to be played.

Though they had very little offense for most of the game, the Blue Devils showed new life after the goal and inserted more men on offense to try to level the score. All of their efforts were stopped short by the UNC defense, which had arguably its best game of the year.

“We were definitely pumped up for this game,” goalie Scott Goodwin said. “We aren’t a big ‘rah-rah team,’ but at the same time we bring the energy and everybody is ready to go.”

Though the 1-0 score might suggest a tight contest, the actual game was anything but.

From the opening kickoff, coach Elmar Bolowich saw his squad move the ball effortlessly through the midfield, keeping the Duke players constantly chasing the ball.

“It’s nice to keep the ball because it frustrates them,” redshirt junior Brett King said. “We may not be scoring on them, but they aren’t doing anything either.”

During the first half, the Blue Devils had as many as nine men defending, keeping the ball in front of them and forcing UNC into taking shots from a distance.

“In the first half we played in front of their back and it was too easy for them to track down balls and stay compact,” Bolowich said. “We tried to open that up a little bit by playing more balls in behind them.”

The offense was given a shot of energy when redshirt freshman Josh Rice and Castro were inserted into the attack. With a big, physical presence and a shooter’s foot, Rice brings a change of pace to the offense when he comes in for speedy forwards Alex Dixon and Eddie Ababio.

“He gave us exactly what we needed by making clever runs and getting shots off,” Bolowich said. “He’s a good complement to the other two.”

It was the second consecutive win against a local rival for the Tar Heels, who beat N.C. State just more than a week ago in Raleigh. North Carolina has beaten the Wolfpack and Blue Devils during the regular season in each of the last four seasons.

“It was a great atmosphere and we won that game all out — with our supporters in the stands and on the field,” Bolowich said.

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