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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer shuts down Marcelo Acuna, Virginia Tech in 2-0 win

UNC put in a solid performance versus Virginia Tech on a chilly Senior night.
UNC put in a solid performance versus Virginia Tech on a chilly Senior night.

With just 0.5 goals allowed per game, the No. 3 North Carolina men’s soccer team had no reason to change its defensive scheme ahead of Saturday’s matchup with No. 23 Virginia Tech.

It didn’t matter that the Tar Heels were hosting ACC shot leader Marcelo Acuna — whose nine goals are third in the conference. While the Tar Heels knew Acuna’s talent, they were confident in playing their game rather than changing it for one player.

“We talk about guys before the game and talk about what they favor,” said senior captain Colton Storm. “We didn’t have any game plan with a double team; it was just making sure you do your job to make everyone else’s easier.”

With everybody doing their job, North Carolina (11-2-2, 5-1-1 ACC) shut down the Hokies (9-4-3, 2-4-1 ACC) and secured a 2-0 win.

Coming into the game, Acuna averaged 4.4 shots per game. But he only had two against UNC, as he struggled to find any room to operate.

“He’s a very good player, obviously, and you can’t take your eye off him for a second or he’ll pounce,” Coach Carlos Somoano said. “I think our backs defended exceptionally well.”

With such a reliable defensive unit, Somoano remains steadfast in his approach regardless of the opponent.

“Our system is our system,” he said. “It’s not specialized for any one player. But when we’re sharp and executing what we’re trying to do, it’s effective against anybody.”

Although North Carolina secured a shutout, the defense was tested throughout the first half as the Virginia Tech midfielders controlled possession and aggressively delivered balls into the box.

Despite the early struggles and Virginia Tech’s pressure, UNC’s back line never broke.

“The way we defend, we’ve got 10 clean sheets in 15 games, so it’s gonna be tough to score on us,” said redshirt senior defender Walker Hume. “If everybody backs each other up, we work as a good unit.”

Down a goal with under nine minutes remaining, Acuna finally got behind the UNC defense and had a chance for the equalizer. But while Acuna beat the defense, he couldn’t beat goalkeeper James Pyle — who dove to his right to stop the shot.

With the ball on the ground in front of the goal, Virginia Tech forward Nico Quashie sprinted in to try to score off the rebound. But Pyle secured the ball before Quashie could tie the game.

After Pyle got up from the ground, all Quashie could do was offer him a congratulatory handshake.

Even though there was still time remaining, Quashie’s handshake signaled the end of the game. It was as if he knew the Hokies had just squandered their best chance against a stout UNC defense.

@david_adler94

sports@dailytarheel.com

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