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Injuries plague UNC men's soccer team

South Carolina goalie Jimmy Maurer argues with the ref after being issued a yellow card in the 55th minute of a physical match.
South Carolina goalie Jimmy Maurer argues with the ref after being issued a yellow card in the 55th minute of a physical match.

Five minutes into second half of the North Carolina men’s soccer team’s matchup against South Carolina, senior Eddie Ababio went down on a tackle by the Gamecocks’ Blake Brettschneider.

As a red card took the aggressor out of the game, UNC’s athletic trainers helped Ababio limp off Fetzer Field with problems possibly sustained in the knee, ankle or shin.

Just twenty minutes later, it happened again.

This time a yellow card was called on another physical South Carolina player as midfielder Michael Farfan was carted off the field and to the hospital for an X-ray on a potential fracture.

Both injuries are just the latest in a string of hardships the worn-thin Tar Heels have been forced to adjust to in recent weeks, but UNC coach Elmar Bolowich remains positive about the outlook of his team.

“We can dig 17 or 18 players deep and still put something out and persevere and win games,” Bolowich said. “They have to move a little bit tighter, they have to lead themselves and lead each other on the field and pick up the slack. We have no other choice.”

UNC’s squad, which was already weakened with the losses of preseason All-American Billy Schuler to a shoulder injury and Cameron Brown to an ACL tear, now faces multiple unknowns. Under the leadership of senior transfer Jalil Anibaba, North Carolina is turning to its youth to make plays and keep the team moving forward.

“We’ve got new guys sliding in, which has obviously kind of turned the team chemistry off a little bit now, but they’re doing a great job,” freshman Robbie Lovejoy said. “At practice everyday they’re the ones that are working the hardest and fighting and trying to make the best of it.”

Noticeably absent in the midfield on Tuesday, Stephen McCarthy will have a place on North Carolina’s sideline for four weeks. McCarthy left a dent in the midfield’s height and strength when he broke his jaw last Tuesday against Liberty.

With midfielder Bruno Castro unavailable as a substitute due to a hamstring injury, Alex Walters has filled in for the six-foot-four McCarthy. Walters made his first appearance this season last week just before the team considered redshirting him.

“Alex Walters has the hardest role on the team right now, to come in and fill that defensive midfield role,” Lovejoy said. “He’s doing an incredible job.”

Also missing from the lineup, and team’s roster in general, is defender Brett King. King quit the team last Wednesday after the pain from three extensive foot surgeries mounted to be too much for the redshirt junior.

Redshirt freshman Matt Rose has been playing in the former starter’s place since the end of September and is just one of the team’s younger players that has played himself into a starting role.

No matter the player’s age or experience, all of the men’s soccer team remains focused on where they want to end up — not what the team lacks.

“I don’t think our goals are changing,” Bolowich said. “(The College Cup) is still the focus of all these players, and I know they will work very, very hard to achieve it. We just plug away, we take it game by game.”

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