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The Daily Tar Heel

First-years step up to the challenge as UNC men's soccer defeats UNC-Asheville

Defender Mauricio Pineda runs against a UNC Asheville player during the game on Tuesday.
Defender Mauricio Pineda runs against a UNC Asheville player during the game on Tuesday.

After suffering a hard loss to No. 21 Virginia on Friday, the No. 8 North Carolina men's soccer team returned to the field, destroying UNC-Asheville by a score of 7-0 at Fetzer Field on Tuesday. 

Leading the way for the Tar Heels were a number of first-years, who took the field by storm in UNC's last nonconference home game of the season. 

One of the first-years who stood out Tuesday night was defender Mauricio Pineda, who scored a hat trick — his first of the season — in the Tar Heels' win. 

“It feels good,” Pineda said. “(The goals) come pretty easy, I mean it’s my position, tapping in goals. My teammates call them ‘tap-ins’ and I seem to get a lot of those. I’m just glad to get it in the back of the net and help my team."

Pineda was part of UNC's No. 1 2016 recruiting class. And while he has played well for the team, it has taken him a while to adjust to the college game. 

“It is a lot more physical, I feel like that is a big part," he said. "It’s just a lot faster, everything’s a lot faster. It’s just a higher level, a higher level of physicality. It’s just a lot better.”

Just 10 minutes after being subbed into the game, Pineda scored his second goal of the season off an assist from Walker Hume and Colton Storm. 

Later in the first half, Pineda scored again — knocking in one of his famous "tap-ins" — for his third goal of the season. And then, in the 82nd minute, he tallied another for his first career hat trick. 

“Mauricio is a solid player for us and has matured a lot as a player from when he got here in August," Walker Hume said. "It’s good to see his progress and when his name is called, he always steps up for us in the right moments. He’s a solid player for this team.” 

In addition to Pineda’s goals, first-year midfielder Cam Lindley assisted the first goal of the game. Lindley and fellow first-year Jack Skahan both started the game and provided great passing and moving bodies in order to secure the win against the Bulldogs. 

“They were ready when their name was called," redshirt senior forward Tucker Hume said. "Come in, just be effective. Stick to our game plan and do what they know how to do. Add their variety to the game, but stick to our game plan. So, it was good to see them come on and do well." 

Though they might be young, the first-years make up over 30 percent of the team and provide ample bodies with great skill to help control possession. Jeremy Kelly and Johan Welch proved this in the second half. 

Kelly scored his second goal of the season during the second half on assists by David October and Andy Lopez. Welch got a shot in goal for the last eight minutes of the game and managed to keep the clean sheet for his team. 

“Funny thing is, with any new player in our program, you see that they start to get a rhythm and then they can get off track and then they come back," Coach Carlos Somoano said. "So they all ride a bit of a roller coaster at times when things are going great, and then they hit a little bit of a slump and bounce back. That’s normal, too. We’re not concerned about that as long as they are committed to what they’re doing. 

"(Kelly and Pineda) are in particular and so it’s only a matter of time until they start to see their rewards like that.”


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