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.”