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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer ties with Notre Dame in first ACC bout

On Sunday afternoon, the No. 1 North Carolina men’s soccer team loaded the bus from the Chicago airport and embarked on a trip to South Bend, Ind. for a matchup never before seen in the team’s history.

The Tar Heels took the field to face No. 4 Notre Dame in what would be the Fighting Irish’s inaugural ACC appearance and the first-ever season contest between the two formidable programs.

“It gives us an idea about the top teams in the nation and what we actually have to strive for,” junior forward Tyler Engel said. “They’re number four, they’re a very good team, and I thought it was a great test.”

Notre Dame made a statement in its ACC debut, holding the Tar Heels to a 1-1 tie after two tense periods of overtime. The Irish, who outshot the Tar Heels 21-12, ended North Carolina’s season shutout streak.

Engel put the Tar Heels on the scoreboard first in the 18th minute when he chipped a goal in over the Notre Dame goalkeeper. It was Engel’s third consecutive goal in as many games.

“Cooper (Vandermaas-Peeler) gave a great ball out wide,” Engel said, “The defender was running at me without even seeing the ball so I was able to get around him. I took a touch, looked up, and saw the goalie was a little off his line so I just kinda went for it and it paid off.”

Engel’s goal carried the Tar Heels into halftime with the lead.

But from the start of second-half whistle, Notre Dame’s high-pressure offensive drives gave UNC no room to breathe. The Irish nearly tied the game in the 77th minute, but junior mid-fielder Jordan McCrary cleared the ball from the goal line.

“Notre Dame was really hammering us in the second half,” junior goalkeeper Brendan Moore said. “But the back four did a great job of keeping the ball in front of them and having the shots at long distance. It creates a sense of calm so we’re not scrambling to recover.”

Two minutes later, the Irish penetrated the UNC defense and received a corner kick. Moore saved the initial attempt, but the equalizer came when Irish senior forward Leon Brown sent the loose ball flying into the top net.

“We really played poorly from halftime until they scored,” coach Carlos Somoano said. “At that point we had been under pressure for a while and just lost our focus. That 35 minutes is not representative of what we are trying to do.”

Both teams had ample scoring opportunities in the overtime periods, but neither could capitalize before the final whistle.

UNC will now focus on preparing for Friday’s home game vs. No. 13 Maryland, the Tar Heel’s third top-20 ranked opponent in a row.

“If we want to butt heads with teams like Notre Dame, we’re just going to have to work harder on the field and play faster,” Somoano said, “We’ve got such a difficult schedule this year that every game will be at a high intensity level.”

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