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The Daily Tar Heel

Freshmen help spark win against Clemson

Bars that apply to be "private clubs" do not have to get sanitation inspections.
Bars that apply to be "private clubs" do not have to get sanitation inspections.

On the heels of a three-game losing streak, the No. 9 North Carolina men’s soccer team desperately needed a spark.

Tied at two apiece with Clemson (5-5, 2-2 ACC) in double overtime on Friday, UNC (6-4, 2-2 ACC) threatened past midfield. Freshman defender David October had forced two corners in the first overtime, but his team needed another play, another chance.

With fellow defender Walker Hume, October executed the perfect give-and-go. After tapping the ball to Hume, October sprinted on a mad dash and the perfect pass from Hume found the speedster. October was then fouled in the penalty box, and sent junior midfielder Raby George to the line for the game-winner.

Although October logged just nine minutes, it was key plays like this and others from his fellow freshmen that helped trigger a rally for the 3-2 win over Clemson, despite the Tigers taking an initial 2-0 lead.

“We’ve talked about subs coming on and making an important impact,” October said. “We’ve managed to pull it out, and it’s taken absolutely everyone, even the people that haven’t gotten on the field.”

Other notables from the freshmen included the first career start for forward Alan Winn and the first career goal for forward Zach Wright.

Winn’s contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet, but he helped loosen up the Clemson defense by showcasing his speed on multiple occasions. Zigzagging his way through the opposing defense, Winn created opportunities.

Wright, on the other hand, started a rally for UNC after the two-goal deficit.

“Walk told me to just get behind him,” Wright said. “Walker being really good in the air just flicked it. Right place, right time and just a little tap in. He made it real simple for me.”

Coach Carlos Somoano counted on the two youngsters up front for long stretches and in late-game moments to spell some of the veterans. 

“When (senior forward Andy Craven) starts to wear down, I know we got Zach,” Somoano said. “As long as Zach can keep those legs moving, he can stay out there. In the second overtime, Zach and Alan start to slow down, let’s bring in the other two guys: Nyambi (Jabang) and Andy Craven. If I’m sitting on the other sideline, I’m going, 'Holy crap.'”

Somoano said he’ll keep substituting frequently as long as he has the depth, and it appears he does at the forward position with Winn and Wright added to the Craven-Jabang-Rob Lovejoy-Tyler Engel platoon.

Wright said part of what makes the freshmen so effective is that the older players are waiting to sub back in.

“We play with a lot of heart because we want to be out there all the time,” Wright said. “We have to put in more than the seniors sometimes. We leave it all on the field because we know they’re going to come back on, so we have 20 minutes to just put it away.”

Many freshmen struggle to crack the rotation or affect the game, but these three showed few signs of inexperience.

“All of us have come in with a level head, but we’re hungry,” October said. “All of us have come in and held a confident head. It’s one of those things where you try your best every day. You try to make sure everyone knows what you can do.”

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