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The Daily Tar Heel

Josh Rice gives UNC soccer spark, two assists

Forward makes instant impact

Huggz y'all!
Huggz y'all!

Redshirt freshman Josh Rice ran onto Fetzer Field for the first time in the 38th minute of Tuesday’s men’s soccer matchup against Radford.

The substitution proved to be a spark for North Carolina’s offense, as the forward went on to tally two assists and earn the right to play the entire second half of UNC’s 5-1 victory.

“I just have to take every minute and do as well as I can, whether I get five minutes or 20 minutes,” Rice said. “I just have to come into the game and adjust as quickly as I can.”

Although Rice has made only one start for UNC this season, he has played in each of the Tar Heels’ nine games in his role as an out-and-out forward.

Playing his way into an integral part of UNC’s offense, Rice proved himself fewer than two minutes after entering the game by finding sophomore Martin Murphy by the net for a game-tying goal.

“I honestly didn’t think he was going to see me because he was so close to the goal line and there was a couple of defenders blocking him, so it was really great vision by him,” Murphy said.

Rice connected with the attack once more in the second half by earning his second assist of the night on a pass to Enzo Martinez, who put the Tar Heels up 2-1 after halftime and sparked a four-goal second half.

“Josh played amazing,” midfielder Stephen McCarthy said. “He’s so strong and big on the ball that it’s hard for any defender to play him. I think when he comes in off the bench he provides a whole new attack.”

The Midlothian, Va., native now sits atop the Tar Heels’ assist throne with four on the season.

“(Tonight) was one of my best games as far as connecting with the other players on the field,” Rice said.

“I feel like I still could have gotten to the ball a little more up top but definitely with the team, it was great. I love connecting with them and making it work.”

While his knack for assists reined key in Rice’s play against Radford, his vision while taking his own shots was only slightly less impressive.

Both of Rice’s two shots were narrow misses, including one that rocketed off the crossbar just inches above the net.

His only success in finding the back of the net this season helped UNC nail a 4-1 victory against Seton Hall.

In his very first exhibition game for the Tar Heels, Rice started his season off with a flurry and sent a game-winner past UNC-Wilmington’s goalie in the last minute of play.

With Alex Dixon’s starting position in question for Friday night’s ACC matchup due to an injured hamstring, Rice may be just the player for UNC coach Elmar Bolowich to turn to as the team plays Wake Forest.

“With Alex Dixon out right now, definitely, (Rice) was opportunistic enough to say, ‘Hey, if you guys need me I’m ready from the first minute,’” Bolowich said.

“There’s no question, based on how he played tonight, if Alex is not available on Friday, I can see Josh playing.”

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